Athletics’ Smith makes first home start vs. Rays (Jul 18, 2017)
OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland Athletics right-hander Chris Smith had to wait until he was 36 years old before making his first career major league start on July 8 at Seattle.
Ten days later, Smith will make his second big league start, this time against the Tampa Bay Rays and left-hander Blake Snell on Tuesday night at the Oakland Coliseum.
“Now that I’m getting a second one, it’s like, ‘Man, here we go!'” Smith said. “It will be like the first one, nervous and exciting. It’s awesome. I can’t explain in words what it means. But just to be here is so rewarding. Every day it’s the same for me. Every day’s the best.”
Smith made his major league debut in 2008 with Boston and had 64 career appearances, all out of the bullpen, before starting against the Mariners.
“Since I came up with the Red Sox and Brewers (in 2009 and 2010), I didn’t think I’d ever start,” Smith said. “I knew I was just a bullpen guy.”
However, the A’s have needed someone to fill in for injured starter Jharel Cotton, who is on the disabled list with a blister on his right thumb, and Smith got the unexpected nod.
Smith allowed three runs on six hits over six innings and got a no-decision in Oakland’s 4-3 victory against the Mariners. He struck out four, walked one and learned a valuable lesson.
“That I could do it,” Smith said. “I’m by no means calling myself a starter in the big leagues, but I did it one time. And I know as guys see me more or the video that’s out there, and these starters, they’re workhorses, and they have to do it when guys know what they have.
“Maybe I caught the Mariners by surprise. Hopefully I can do that with the Rays. Whether it’s the bullpen or the starting rotation, I just want to pitch good and then see what happens.”
Smith hadn’t been in the big leagues since 2010 when the A’s called him up last August from Triple-A Nashville, where had he started 22 games in 2016. He made 13 relief appearances for the A’s, compiling a 2.92 ERA.
This year he went 4-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 15 games, including 12 starts, for Nashville before being called up to start against Seattle. He became the fourth pitcher in the past 55 years to make his first major league start at 36 or older.
Snell, 24, is having a tough season, his second year in the big leagues. He is 0-5 with a 4.85 ERA in 10 starts with 45 strikeouts and 34 walks in 52 innings. He made the Opening Day roster but was sent down to Triple-A Durham on May 14 at and spent six weeks in the minor leagues before being recalled on June 28.
“I’ve had a lot to learn, a lot to learn,” Snell said. “It’s been tough because I’m making it tough on myself. Just a lot to learn, but I definitely feel like I’m headed in the right direction. I feel like I’m actually doing what I say I want to do.”
Snell went 6-8 with a 3.54 ERA in 19 starts as a rookie last season. What did he learn from being sent down this year?
“That I’ve got to attack the strike zone if I want to be here,” he said. “I’ve got to believe in my stuff, got to have confidence in it.”
Snell hasn’t lasted more than five innings in a game since his first start of the year, when he went 6 2/3 in a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. However, he is coming off of one of his best starts of the season.
Snell blanked the Chicago Cubs on four hits over five innings on July 5, hitting as high as 97 mph on the Wrigley Field radar gun. He struck out five, walked four and got a no-decision in a 7-3 loss.
“It’s something to build on, for sure,” Snell said. “But definitely a lot of room to improve. I’ve got good stuff. I just got to throw it in the zone more and make them hit it.”
On July 24, 2016, in his only career start against Oakland, Snell allowed two runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings and got a no-decision in a 3-2 loss. Both runs came in the first inning.
Smith is 0-0 with a 15.00 ERA in three career relief appearances over three innings against Tampa Bay.