Chad Smith reportedly to join Tigers bullpen
When the Tigers called up Blaine Hardy on Sunday, it was a somewhat surprising move given the numbers that sinkerballer Chad Smith was producing. The fact that Hardy pitches left-handed seemed to be a major factor in getting him up here.
Turns out Smith didn’t have to wait long for his turn. John Wagner of the Toledo Blade reports that he was told after the game to head up to Detroit for Wednesday’s game.
At the very least, he’s a fresh arm for a bullpen that has been taxed the last four days. The way Smith has pitched on his way up the organizational ladder, the Tigers are probably hoping for more than that.
Quietly, Smith has been a nice success story for a Tigers organization that has struggled at drafting and developing relievers out of the middle rounds. Detroit took him out of USC in the 17th round of the 2011 Draft knowing he was going to need Tommy John surgery, costing him a year of development. Once he finally got into the system two summers ago, however, he has consistently delivered at every level, which made for a quick trip through the organization.
Smith spent all of last season at low Class A West Michigan, but pitched well enough to skip Lakeland and open the year at Double-A Erie. He needed just seven outings there in April to earn a call up to Triple-A Toledo, where he has picked up where he left off.
Smith’s surgically repaired right arm still can throw in the mid-90s. More importantly, he approaches the mid-90s with sink, resulting in a 1.87 ratio of groundouts to flyouts with the Hens. That ratio was 2.83 with Erie. At the same time, he’s posting a near-even ratio of strikeouts to innings pitched.
The Tigers have some different styles of relievers, but they don’t have a sinkerball guy out in the bullpen. On a staff of fastball-slider guys, Smith provides a complement while pitching an inning or two at a time.
We’ll have to wait for the return move, but considering Brad Ausmus mentioned the importance of having an extra lefty this week, the more likely move is righty-for-righty unless there’s a DL stint involved with someone like Ian Krol, who had shoulder trouble last weekend. Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain and Al Alburquerque aren’t going anywhere.
That would leave Evan Reed, an early-season stabilizer in Detroit’s bullpen who has struggled mightily since then to keep his pitches down. He’s out of options, so the Tigers would have to designate him for assignment. If they did, he’d be expected to clear waivers at this point.