ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — From Detroit to Tampa Bay, from wearing the jersey of the only team he had known since entering the majors in 2012 to being part of a blockbuster three-way trade, left-hander Drew Smyly continues his transition.
Smyly, 25, has fared well since joining the Rays on July 31 after former Tampa Bay ace David Price was sent to the Detroit Tigers. In four starts from Aug. 5-22, the native of Little Rock, Ark., is 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA and 23 strikeouts. He threw his first career complete game Friday, when he allowed just two hits and struck out four in the Rays’ 8-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
When he was acquired, Smyly (8-10, 3.42 ERA) projected to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter. He’s the first member of the Rays’ haul in the Price trade to see time with Tampa Bay in the majors. Utility man Nick Franklin, formerly of the Seattle Mariners, has hit .197 with two home runs and five RBI in 18 games with Triple-A Durham. Shortstop Willy Adames, meanwhile, has hit .277 with one home run and seven RBI in 18 games with Class-A Bowling Green.
Recently, FOX Sports Florida caught up with Smyly to speak about his introduction to the Rays.
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: Has this transition gone quicker than expected for you?
DREW SMYLY: Yeah, it really has. I mean, the first few days are a little awkward. You’re kind of nervous. You’re not really comfortable around a lot of the guys. You don’t know them that well. But it doesn’t take long. You’re around these guys all day. You’re traveling with them. So once you’re here, they pretty much become family, and so it has been great. Everyone has been really nice.
FSF: Was the Detroit series at Tropicana Field strange for you?
SMYLY: Not really. Maybe it would be a little different if I was pitching. But it’s good to say "hey" to those guys. You don’t really see them much when you’re not playing baseball. So it was good to say "hey."
FSF: How has the overall transition gone for you?
SMYLY: After the first week, everything’s been good. I feel right at home. It doesn’t take long to get cool with all the guys. They’re really easy-going. I mean, you’re around them all day, every day. It’s been good.
FSF: Is there any particular piece of advice that sticks out as the best so far?
SMYLY: Just be yourself. That’s what everyone says. Yuni (shortstop Yunel Escobar) told me the first day I was here, so I think I was a little shy at first. He just laughed and said, "Just be yourself." But that’s what you’ve got to do. It’s better once you get comfortable around everybody. But it doesn’t take long.
FSF: What was the hardest thing about leaving Detroit?
SMYLY: Just the teammates. I’m always going to love those guys. They were great. They’re a lot of veteran guys. I grew up watching (outfielder) Torii Hunter play. I mean, he’s one of my favorite players, and I got to be his teammate. We’re both from Arkansas. Stuff like that. It was cool, but it’s a closed chapter now. Now I’m here. I’ve got new teammates.
FSF: You’ve not been known as a big-innings pitcher early in your career (high is 134 1/3 innings this year). Are you interested in building stamina for higher innings totals as you move forward?
SMYLY: Pretty much. I think most pitchers get a little wear and tear this time of year, because this is the struggle — August and September. But we’ve got seven more starts left in the regular season. I’m just trying to finish strong. It’s tough right now, but it’s going to help going into next year. So I’m just trying to tally up as much as I can.
FSF: How important was it for you to start strong in your opening appearances with the Rays?
SMYLY: That’s really big. It would have kind of sucked if I came out here and struggled from the get-go. It happens. I’m sure I’ll have a period where I struggle. Everyone does. But it’s definitely big to get off on a good start to show everybody what you’re capable of.
FSF: As you finish this season and move into next spring, what do you think your ceiling with Tampa Bay can be?
SMYLY: Just a guy that they can rely on, that they can count on every five days, someone that’s stable in the rotation. That’s all I can do. I can’t put crazy expectations on myself. But just to be a consistent starter. That’s all I really try to do — someone that can win every time out.