DETROIT — It’s the moment every baseball player dreams of but still can’t believe when it happens.
So there’s always Toledo Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish to make it even more memorable, this time for Chad Smith.
"(Parrish) pulled me in he was just like, ‘You need to get some sleep,’" Smith said. "I was like, ‘Why?’ We were working a kids camp back in Toledo so I was like, ‘How does he know I’m working the camp?’ Then he was like, ‘No, you have a day game tomorrow.’ I’m like, ‘I’m pretty sure we play at 7. I follow the schedule pretty well.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, up in Detroit.’ That’s how he told me."
After being forced to go to their bullpen early in another game, the Tigers recalled Smith from Toledo and designated Evan Reed for assignment.
"He had spells where he was very good," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Reed. "With that dominating fastball, he’d stay on top of his slider, and get swings and misses. Then he had times where he had trouble throwing strikes, and wasn’t attacking hitters.
"I still think Evan’s got a chance to be a good major league pitcher, but it just wasn’t working right now."
Smith, 24, immediately called his parents, Canace and Dennis, after getting the news.
"I put them on speakerphone," Smith said. "They both started to cry so it was a pretty special moment."
Ausmus said they needed another arm in the bullpen.
"Wanted someone who could go a couple innings, in case there’s another issue," Ausmus said. "Just in talking to Larry Parrish, getting reports on what his stuff looks like, how he’s pitched. He’s pitched very well. He’s not a guy that was really on the radar in spring training, but has pitched his way onto the radar over the first three months of the season."
In 15 games with the Mud Hens, Smith is 4-2 with a 1.64 ERA. He started the season with Double-A Erie, going 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in seven games.
"Coming into spring training, I was thinking start in High-A and finish the season in Double-A," Smith said. "Then when I was able to start in Double-A, I was like, man, I just hope I stay in Double-A and don’t get moved down to High-A. Then I got the call on a Sunday from Lance Parrish in Double-A and he said I was going up. I was shocked. Then (Tuesday) night I was even more shocked."
The road has not always been so smooth for Smith, who underwent Tommy John surgery when he was in college.
He said it was one pitch against the Oregon Ducks during his junior year that did it.
"I came in the eighth inning, pitched the eighth, came back for the ninth and struck out the first guy," Smith said. "The first pitch to the second hitter was a slider and I felt the pop and was like, ‘That didn’t feel so good.’ I threw another pitch, something’s not right, I called the coach out, got an MRI and ended up getting surgery."
Smith said before the draft, he had spoken to every team but most of them backed off when he had surgery just two weeks before the draft.
"I was ready to rehab, redshirt the next year and go back as a fifth-year senior," Smith said. "The Tigers had faith in me, they believed in me. We were able to work it out where I signed, then I went back to school and finished my degree that fall, then went out and rehabbed with the Tigers."
Smith said coming back from the injury was a challenge.
"It took a while," Smith said. "I was probably first coming back 88-90 (mph), but it was 88-90 at the backstop. It was either right down the middle, backstop behind him. It was one of those things I couldn’t explain. My mind knew what to do but my body couldn’t do it, so that was a mental block that I had for a long time."
Smith said that came last year when he was pitching mop-up for the West Michigan Whitecaps.
"I think it was around July," Smith said. "I started to get on a pretty good roll and I was like, this is what I’m supposed to do, this is the old Chad. That was an encouraging sign."
Smith described himself as a sinker-slider pitcher.
"I used to think I was a hard thrower, then I got to pro ball and realized everyone throws just as hard as me or harder," Smith said. "So I throw a lot of sinkers, that’s kind of been my pitch."
Hopefully Smith’s family will arrive in time if he’s called upon. His parents, sister Julia and brother Jimmy flew out this morning from California.
Things are progressing for outfielder Andy Dirks, who is recovering from March 10 back surgery.
"He’s actually done all baseball activities," Ausmus said. "He’s even played the field in a scrimmage. But, as of a couple days ago, he’s probably still a week or 10 days away from starting his rehab assignment."
HUNTER STILL OUT
Torii Hunter remained out of the lineup for the second straight day because of a sore right hamstring suffered in Monday night’s game.
Hunter hopes to be ready for the weekend series in Cleveland at the latest.