Cano pleased with Smoak 'netting' double

Cano pleased with Smoak 'netting' double

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Robinson Cano got off to a nice start in his Mariners debut in Thursday's 7-1 Cactus League victory over the Padres, but Seattle's new second baseman sounded just as excited about a run-scoring double by teammate Justin Smoak.

Cano went 1-for-1 with a walk and a run scored, crossing the plate on Smoak's two-bagger to right-center in the first inning.

Cano worked with Smoak on a "net drill" on Wednesday, a ploy Cano uses to remind himself to keep his hands in close and not over-extend his swing by placing the net just on the other side of a ball on a tee.

Some have questioned whether Cano has the leadership qualities the Mariners expect to work with their young players, but he's wasted no time adopting that role this spring.

"If you look back where I was, most of the guys had been in the league for eight, 10, 15 years. Guys who had been successful," said Cano, who was formerly with the Yankees. "So, I learned from those guys and I would say it's time for me to pass that along now to the kids, especially a guy like Smoak. He's a guy we know can hit.

"Like I told him, you don't want to go through this year hitting .230 like last year," Cano said. "You've got to set your mind that starting now, you want to have a good season. So, you have to start from now. I did the net drill yesterday and he's been working with [hitting coach] Howard Johnson, too. You can see it today. That was a beautiful swing, especially from the right side. He kept his hands inside. If he does that during the season, you will see a difference this year."

Manager Lloyd McClendon was also pleased with Smoak's initial at-bat in his 1-for-2 day. The Mariners need the youngster to step up and provide more offense from his first-base position and McClendon sees the potential, particularly if Smoak doesn't worry just about hitting home runs.

"That was very pleasant," McClendon said. "That was a great at-bat. He really stayed inside the ball nice and really drove the ball to the gap. One thing we want to impress upon him is that I think he has the ability to lead the league in doubles. And that's what I want his goal to be is to lead the league in doubles. If you hit doubles, you're doing everything right."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.