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Not in opener lineup, but Smith contributes right away

SAN DIEGO -- Outfielder Seth Smith wasn't in the Padres' starting lineup Sunday, as the Dodgers went with a left-handed pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu, but Smith figures to get plenty of at-bats this season.

Smith's first, in fact, came in the eighth inning, when he appeared as a pinch-hitter and tied the game at 1 with a deep homer to right field off Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson. The blast ignited a three-run rally in the Padres' 3-1 Opening Night win.

"It's about as much as you can hope for," Smith said of his first at-bat with San Diego.

The Padres traded reliever Luke Gregerson to the A's in November for Smith, addressing one of their biggest offseason needs -- finding a left-handed bat to improve their woeful offensive marks against righties from a year ago.

A year ago, San Diego ranked 25th in baseball with a .241 average against right-handed pitching, and the Padres were 29th in OPS (.668) against righties.

Enter Smith, who was coming off a Spring Training in which he hit .325, but with a .343 average in 35 at-bats facing right-handed pitchers, with three doubles and one home run.

"Right now, I'm good with where I am," Smith said prior to Sunday's game. "I'm always looking to get better and improve. It's always a work in progress. You're never content."

Smith began slowly this spring, but he found his swing -- and, subsequently, more success -- the longer spring rolled on.

"It's having good, productive at-bats without having to think about anything," Smith said. "You're working with your mechanics during the spring and getting your swing where you want it to be. I think that it all goes hand in hand. When you can get in there and clear your head, you can be productive. That's when you know you have a chance."

There's a good chance that Smith will start on Tuesday when the series resumes, as the Dodgers have righty Zack Greinke taking the mound. San Diego will face another right-hander on Wednesday in the series finale in Dan Haren. Smith will likely see time in right field.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
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