ANAHEIM, Calif. – Justin Smoak returned off the disabled list Tuesday looking to build upon the foundation he’d laid before straining his oblique.
The Mariners brought Smoak back from his Class AAA rehabilitation stint in Tacoma and he started at first base against the Angels. Smoak was hitting .240 when he was hurt, but had built his on-base percentage up to .350 and his long-missing power seemed to be picking up as well.
“I just need to stay locked in to what I was doing,’’ Smoak said before Tuesday’s game. “Just be ready to hit and let it fly. Hopefully, that’s where I’m going to be from here on out.’’
He got off to a good start, pounding a home run to right field in his first at-bat, in the second inning. The blast came while batting left-handed, the side that caused him problems with the injury.
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It was only about the third day of his rehabilitation stint, which began late last week, in which Smoak said he felt comfortable batting left-handed again.
Smoak said it was “very hard’’ sitting out after the May 26 injury. He’d gotten into one game for the Mariners as a pinch-hitter, on May 30, but was DL-bound after that.
“It felt like a month,’’ he said of the layoff. “That part wasn’t easy.’’
Infielder Alex Liddi was optioned to Tacoma to make room for Smoak.
• Michael Morse got a day off to try to heal a quad muscle that has given him problems for several weeks. The Mariners were playing Morse at first base on this trip because Kendrys Morales has had back problems when he tries to play the field.
“We’re just trying to give him a health day,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Just try to get him back a little bit sooner.’’
Wedge said trainer Rick Griffin also worked Morse out, running in the outfield before the game. The team would like to see Morse occasionally play the outfield again to take some strain off Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay, who have played the corners far more than initially planned.
Bay missed his second straight game Tuesday with a tight hamstring.
• Ibanez hit a solo homer in the second inning to extend his hitting streak at Angel Stadium to 13 games. It is the longest active streak at the ballpark by any player.
Heading into the game, Ibanez’s .326 batting average here was the eighth highest all-time against the Angels among active players.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @gbakermariners. Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners.