SEATTLE -- While Justin Smoak was hitting just .203 with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs heading into Saturday's game with Texas, the young Mariners first baseman still carries considerable respect with his former team.
Smoak was the Rangers' first-round Draft pick in 2008 and regarded as one of their premier prospects before being traded to the Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal in July, 2009.
"Smoak will be all right," said Rangers skipper Ron Washington, who managed Smoak for 70 games his rookie season in 2010 before the midseason trade. "He's a fighter. Somewhere down the line, he'll figure it out because there is something there.
"He might have gotten up here too soon, we had him up too soon. But he has something in that bat. He just has to figure it out. He's going to pay dividends for them. Jack [Zduriencik, GM] knows talent."
Washington, whose Rangers squad is loaded with proven veterans, understands what the Mariners are going through.
"All those kids will pay dividends," he said. "They can play. They're just in the big leagues learning on the job. They're tough. I don't see them cowing down. They're going out there and getting after it. They're just inexperienced."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge has preached that same message all season. He was encouraged by Smoak's 10-pitch battle with Derek Holland on Friday night, as well as some positive signs from fellow youngsters Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Jesus Montero and Michael Saunders.
"As far away as it may seem, we've got good young players who work hard and care about the right things," Wedge said. "We're not as far away as people think we are. And I'm going to keep saying that because I believe it. Once it happens and we keep moving forward, this will be a footnote."