TORONTO — Justin Smoak doesn’t need to campaign to be on the American League’s all-star team. Marcus Stroman and the rest of his Toronto Blue Jays teammates are more than happy to push for fans to vote Smoak in as the AL’s starting first baseman.
Stroman was answering questions about his pitching mechanics on Wednesday after throwing 7 2/3 superb innings in a 4-0 win over the rival Baltimore Orioles. But after explaining the value of working out between starts, Stroman insisted on changing the subject to Smoak.
“We should definitely direct this convo to Justin Smoak now though,” Stroman said to media assembled in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse. “Smoak the Vote. He should be starting in the all-star game at first. Guy’s been unbelievable all year for us.”
Smoak has been putting up career numbers since stepping up as Toronto’s starting first baseman after the team lost all-star Edwin Encarnacion to free agency in the off-season. Smoak’s hitting .301, well above his previous best of .239, with his 21st home run of the year on Wednesday surpassing his career-high for a season. Although he hasn’t topped his highs in runs or RBIs, Smoak is closing in on both, well before the halfway mark of the year.
“None of us have seen him look this good, but he’s under control. His swing looks great, he’s balanced,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. ”I can’t say enough good things about him that I haven’t already said. Both sides of the plate, it really doesn’t matter. Hopefully he continues that and he could have a monster year.”
Voting closed at 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, with Toronto players wearing shirts supporting Smoak’s candidacy using the phrase “This JustIn” and the hashtag #SmoakTheVote during batting practice at Rogers Centre. The starting lineups for the AL and NL teams will be announced Sunday night.
“He needs to be starting at first base,” said Stroman. ”There’s no way he can’t be. Let’s do everything in our power to go out there and vote as many times as possible. Let’s make sure Justin Smoak is starting in the all-star game, as he should be.”
Smoak, who is one of the more soft-spoken players in the clubhouse, quietly hoped that he earned a spot at the all-star game on July 11 in Miami.
“It’d be great. It’s something that as a kid you dream of,” said Smoak. ”It’d be an honour. Hopefully, it happens.”
Stroman was happy to play the hype man for Smoak, though. He noted some key adjustments to Smoak’s at bats that have gotten results.
“He’s laying off that down pitch, he’s seeing balls in the zone, he has a distinct plan every time he comes to the plate,” said Stroman. “Like I said, he’s kept us in games single handedly at times. He’s been someone we can count on when things were going tough. He’s remained constant throughout the year.”