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Smoak belts 3-run HR in return to lineup

Buchholz set for Saturday start; Giles gets Hall of Fame souvenir
@jessicacamerato
April 11, 2019

BOSTON -- The Blue Jays are being more aggressive at the plate, making the timing ideal for Justin Smoak to return to the lineup on Thursday. Smoak missed four of the last five games because of a neck injury. He has not played -- or swung a bat -- since

BOSTON -- The Blue Jays are being more aggressive at the plate, making the timing ideal for Justin Smoak to return to the lineup on Thursday. Smoak missed four of the last five games because of a neck injury. He has not played -- or swung a bat -- since Saturday.

“It feels great,” Smoak said of his return. “I feel like I’m not one that normally likes sitting there watching games. I just feel like you always want to be a part of this. I haven’t been the last few days, so hopefully today is the start of being back to normal.”

Smoak slotted into the lineup as the designated hitter in the No. 3 hole against the Red Sox. The Blue Jays compiled 10 hits in their 7-5 victory on Tuesday, and are looking to continue that momentum. In Thursday's 7-6 loss at Fenway, Smoak went 1-for-3 with a walk and his second home run of the season.

“It’s great to have him in the middle of the lineup,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “If he’s not our best hitter, he’s one of our best hitters.”

The 32-year-old Smoak is batting .200 with one home run in eight games this season. After going 1-for-5 against the Indians on April 6, he found taking the time to rest and not pick up a bat beneficial, even if it was challenging to take a step back.

“It’s not easy, but the hardest part is saying, ‘I can’t go,’” he said. “I don’t know when the last time I said that was. That was definitely not easy. But it’ll be good to get back in there today and get some at-bats.”

Smoak has a career batting average of .272 in 91 games against the Red Sox.

“When he’s not in the lineup, we miss him,” Montoyo said.

Buchholz nears season debut
Clay Buchholz
said “everything feels good” after throwing a bullpen session on Thursday, two days ahead of his slated first start of the season. The right-hander has been working his way back from a right flexor strain, and is expected to take the mound at Rogers Centre on Saturday against the Rays.

While Buchholz described his upcoming Blue Jays debut as “just another start,” it kicks off his 13th Major League season. The two-time All-Star has had stints in the Minor Leagues and spent large periods of time dealing with injuries, all of which make him appreciate the longevity of his career.

“This is the only thing I’ve ever really done,” said Buchholz, who played his first 10 seasons with the Red Sox. “It’s what I’ve always said, ‘I’m not going to quit.’ Anybody can go through struggles and just give up. But that’s not really how I’ve been molded as a player growing up. You’ve got to know that everything’s not going to be good every time out. You’ve have to do know how to learn from it.”

Hall of Fame appreciation
Ken Giles is leaving Boston with a personalized souvenir from a Hall of Famer. Toronto's closer got an autographed jersey from Pedro Martinez, a player he looked up to and still soaks up information from when he listens to him on broadcasts.

“He’s just an iconic person and overall great player,” Giles said. “I’m always open ears to whatever he has to say.”

From Martinez’s pitch delivery to his approach, to the game to knowledge of opponents, Giles is all ears.

“Anything that comes out of his mouth, honestly,” he said.

Giles will share the jersey with his wife, who is a fan of Martinez. It will be added to a collection that includes Mariano Rivera, Miguel Cabrera, and many former teammates from the Phillies.

“Pedro’s a pretty special one for me,” Giles said.

Jessica Camerato is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato.