ARLINGTON, Texas -- Justin Smoak was taking his cuts in the batting cage Friday afternoon when infield coach Dave Anderson came to get him. They headed to manager Ron Washington's office.
"I knew it was either I was getting sent down -- because I haven't been doing real well," Smoak said. "I knew it was either that or I was going somewhere."
He is going to Seattle. The 23-year-old first baseman got an early taste of the business side of baseball Friday when he and three minor-league prospects were traded to Seattle for lefthanded ace Cliff Lee and reliever Mark Lowe. Smoak had only been with the big club since April 23 and it's been struggle for the switch-hitting slugger. He entered Friday night's game batting .209 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs.
Now, he gets a fresh start and will go down as the key piece in the trade that netted the Rangers a Cy Young Award winner.
"It says a lot. He's a great pitcher and they really wanted to take this team to the next level this year and doing that [making the trade] does it," Smoak said. "It's just one of those things. It's part of it and the only thing you can do is look forward."
Smoak will now be replaced by the guy he replaced, Chris Davis. The 11th overall pick in 2008 by the Rangers, Smoak was thought to be the long-term first baseman of the future. But, with a chance to acquire one of baseball's top pitchers as the American League West leaders try to bolster their chances to win now, Smoak became expendable.
What could have been an awkward setting, with Smoak clearing out his locker and gathering his things and the rest of the players in the clubhouse celebrated the acquisition of a prized pitcher, Smoak instead revealed little emotion and spoke cordially and matter-of-factly with reporters.
"That's Smoak," said pitcher Tommy Hunter, who played against Smoak in college when both starred in the SEC. "You've got to get to know that guy. He can go up there and strike out five times like he did in Milwaukee, come out the next day and you wouldn't know it. That's the kind of guy he is, not much fazes him. He's going to make the best of every opportunity he has. That's why he's such a good guy, such a good person, such a good player."
Smoak said he was disappointed that he won't get to continue this season's ride with the Rangers, but he knows when he gets to Seattle he will be expected to step in and take over as the Mariners' full-time first baseman.
"It's tough. Being new to this business and everything that comes with it, you get on a team and you feel you should be here for a while and all of a sudden things change overnight," Smoak said. "That's part of it. It's something I've learned quick. Now, I get off to a new start and, like I said, just look to the future now."