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3/10/2014 6:21 P.M. ET

Mariners pace Walker with future in mind

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The desire to see what Taijuan Walker can do over a full Major League season is being tempered this spring by the desire to see what he can do for many seasons to come.

Shut down last week for a few days to rest a sore right shoulder, the 21-year-old starter has been making progress the last few days. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said Walker's latest effort was throwing long toss from 120 to 150 feet, and all was going according to plan.

"He threw the ball extremely well -- no pain whatsoever -- and he's got a smile on his face, so that's a good thing," McClendon said. "I feel real good about where he is."

That said, McClendon would not set either a timetable for Walker's return to the mound in Cactus League action, or his status for the opening of the regular season.

And he is certainly not prepared to push the young pitcher too fast and risk not only his current situation but also what appears to be a promising future.

"We don't want to speed up the process," McClendon said. "I know we're all anxious to get him back. This young man got a long career ahead of him, and we've got to make sure we do it right."

Cano back in lineup after missing four days

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After four days without their new star player in the lineup, the Mariners had second baseman Robinson Cano back on the field Monday afternoon for their Cactus League home game against the Royals.

Cano, signed to a 10-year, $240 million deal this winter, underwent a root canal last Wednesday and has been out of action since.

Cano, a five-time All-Star with the Yankees before joining Seattle, began the spring on a hot streak, racking up six singles, three runs and three RBIs through his first 12 at-bats for the Mariners.

Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said Monday morning that despite the gap in playing time there's no reason to believe Cano will have any problems getting back into the flow of Spring Training games.

"No concern whatsoever. He can hit," McClendon said.

Smoak has first locked up, McClendon says

PEORIA, Ariz. -- If there were any question where Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon stood regarding his team's first basemen, he made it clear Monday that it was one of only a few spots he felt was locked up heading into the regular season, and that Justin Smoak would be the guy.

"I said this winter that Smoak is my first baseman," McClendon said Monday morning. "Will other guys play first? Yeah. But Smoak is my first baseman."

Smoak had said earlier this spring he figured the spot was his to lose, but his manager is now more definitive about the 27-year-old switch-hitter's status.

"I had a couple of talks with him over the winter and stuff like that," Smoak said. "I knew that if I just came out here and do what I'm capable of doing and work hard, then I had no worries."

Of course, that doesn't mean Smoak's work is done. While his defensive prowess at first is unquestioned, his offensive ability has yet to be fully tapped. McClendon says he has seen progress this spring in Smoak's approach, even in how he handles batting practice.

"We're just trying to get him to be a good hitter, not a power hitter," McClendon said. "For me, Smoak is a guy who should hit 40-45 doubles and 20-25 homers, not the other way around."

Smoak said he was trying to take a bit of a different mentality at the plate, especially from the right side, where he has had a tendency to try to pull the ball. Ultimately, he is working to match up an impressive defensive game with his offensive potential.

"I know if I do what I'm capable of doing offensively, that defensively I have nothing to worry about," Smoak said. "That's something I pride myself in, trying to be a good defensive first baseman. Defensively, I feel like I'm in a good place, and I think I can do the same offensively. I know I'm capable of doing it."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.