SEATTLE – Nobody with the Seattle Mariners was immune from the strain of a 101-loss season that ended Sunday with a 4-3 defeat to the Oakland A’s.
But there were three young players in the clubhouse late Sunday afternoon – Justin Smoak, Adam Moore and Michael Saunders – determined to channel what they endured in 2010 into something more enjoyable in 2011.
The Mariners played their final games this season hoping to get a better idea if Smoak, a 23-year-old power-hitting switch hitter, is their first baseman of the future; if Moore, 26, can be the offensive-minded catcher they projected since they drafted him in 2006; and if Saunders, 23, can become a regular corner outfielder with offensive production to match.
Smoak finished with a .218 batting average, 13 home runs and a 10-game hitting streak during which he batted .441.
Moore hit safely in seven of the final eight games he played. He finished with a .195 average, four homers and 15 RBIs.
Saunders batted .211 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in 100 games.
“Hopefully, it’s something that everyone learns from,” Saunders said. “On a personal standpoint, it’s not a year that I’m particularly proud off.”
Smoak, who went 1 for 3 Sunday and hit an RBI single in the eighth inning, said he put too much pressure on himself after the Mariners acquired him from the Texas Rangers on July 9 in the Cliff Lee trade. He suffered through a 2-for-36 stretch in late July before the Mariners sent him to Triple-A Tacoma. Recalled Sept. 18, he batted .340 with three home runs and eight RBI in his final 13 games.
“I had ups and downs and learned a lot this year,” Smoak said. “I feel a lot better where I am now and I’m looking forward to spring training.”
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