08/13/11 2:41 AM ET
Hard one-hopper fractures Smoak's nose
By Taylor Soper / MLB.com
And less than 30 minutes after first pitch, the injury bug struck again.
The 24-year-old has had poor luck with the bad bounces. Just 10 days after taking a sharp grounder off his left thumb that caused him to miss five straight games, a Jarrod Saltalamacchia one-hopper struck Smoak in the face during the second inning of the Mariners' 6-4 loss.
Smoak dropped to the ground immediately and was bleeding from the nose. He held a towel to his face as he made it to the dugout on his own two feet with swelling apparent already.
He ended up with a fractured nose and was undergoing a CT scan for further testing Friday night.
"It's scary anytime a baseball comes up around the face," said manager Eric Wedge, who added that Smoak played the ball right. "It's scary and it got him good. Just looking at him and from the X-rays, it looks like his eyes are OK."
The brim of Smoak's cap seemed to thankfully act as a shield between the ball and his face, but the first baseman still was hit square.
"It's really scary. You never want to see something like that happen," designated hitter Mike Carp said. "I can't believe the hop it took. Hopefully he's doing well."
It's just bad luck for Smoak, who hasn't been fully healthy since the start of the season. He started at first base and hit fifth on Friday against Boston.
His return resulted in some discussion from Wedge about Smoak's up-and-down season. The switch-hitter began this season as arguably Seattle's best offensive player, going 21-for-74 (.284) in April, including an 11-game hit streak from April 11-29.
But then he hit somewhat of a wall. Smoak hit just .229 in May, .226 in June and hit rock-bottom in July when he finished with a .141 average.
After Smoak spent the better part of April and May in the five-hole, Wedge began moving him around to the three-slot and even the cleanup spot. He says that this may have resulted in his first baseman's struggles.
"I think I take some of the blame with Justin in regard to him falling off a little bit," Wedge said before Friday's game against Boston. "If you remember us talking earlier, I was adamant about keeping him in the five-hole. But he was without a doubt our best hitter the first couple of months and I felt like out of necessity we needed to move him to the three. I told you guys I wasn't going to hit him cleanup, and I lied to you again.
" ... We're in the business of winning ballgames here, and as much as you want to make sure you take care of the individual, there are other points in time where you have to put the team ahead of the individual. Ultimately, you want to get to the point where it's always like that, but it's always a push and pull as you're moving forward."
Smoak said his struggles didn't have anything to do with the movement in the lineup.
"Nah, it wasn't his fault," Smoak said prior to Friday's game. "That's part of it. I feel like I can hit in the four-hole or the middle of the lineup, but I just got in bad habits trying to do a little much and that's what happened."
Smoak is in his first full season as a big leaguer. He's hitting .221 with 12 home runs and is just 10 for his last 75. From the left side, he's batting .261 (29-for-111), while just .202 (49-for-242) from the right.
In terms of the rest of the season, he wants to develop a consistent approach he can rely on for the future.
"I just want to finish strong and try to come with an approach you can use day in and day out and not get away from it," Smoak said. "The guys that do it the best have it day in and day out, and it's one thing I'm trying to do."
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.