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Smoak still plugging away

Smoak still plugging away

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TORONTO -- There is no denying that Rangers rookie Justin Smoak can hit a baseball.

Taken 11th overall by Texas in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Smoak hit a combined 21 home runs while batting .284 between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2009.

While many expected him to arrive closer to midseason, Chris Davis' early struggles -- batting .188 with 17 strikeouts in 48 at-bats -- and eventual demotion to Oklahoma City, paved the way for Smoak to crack the starting lineup in late April.

Since his promotion, Smoak has hit the baseball with conviction -- he's smacked four home runs -- and demonstrated patience at the plate -- he's drawn 13 walks compared to 13 strikeouts -- but has not reached base at an appropriate Major League level, hitting only .186 with a .310 on-base percentage.

"I'm seeing the ball well right now," Smoak said. "I feel great at the plate, and I feel like I'm hitting some balls hard. Hopefully, I get some breaks here soon."

Although the sample size remains small, the switch-hitting Smoak has particularly struggled batting from the right side against left-handed pitching, compiling a .056 batting average over 18 at-bats. Rangers manager Ron Washington said that hitting the panic button has not even entered his mind.

"It's no concern," Washington said. "I think if [Smoak] had some luck, he would be doing much more. The guy has been hitting the ball hard and getting nothing for it.

"We're going to give him a chance to swing the bat."

Smoak was in the starting lineup on Saturday, batting seventh against Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero.

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