Rookie Carson Smith becomes newest bullpen weapon
With a fully rested bullpen that ranks first in the Majors in ERA, Lloyd McClendon had a lot of choices when starter James Paxton was pulled after six innings Thursday with a 4-2 lead against the A’s. Following a Wednesday off day, the Mariners had all their weapons ready to go in a critical game as they push for the playoffs.
So who did McClendon opt for? How about rookie right-hander Carson Smith, a September callup with all of three innings of big-league experience. And the 6-foot-6 Texan retired five straight A’s before walking a batter and being replaced with two out in the eighth.
Smith, an eighth-round Draft pick in 2011 out of Texas State University, thus becomes the latest power arm in the Mariners ‘pen as he joins a group that has posted a 2.39 ERA while going from the 29th lowest ERA in the Majors in 2013 to the best in 2014.
“He certainly adds to it,” McClendon said before Saturday’s rematch with the A’s. “He did a nice job for us yesterday. That was pretty impressive. … I just liked his sinkerball in that situation. My plan was to send him out there for one inning, but he kept pounding and getting the easy outs. It’s kind of hard to take him out.”
Smith, 24, had 10 saves and a 2.93 ERA in 39 appearances for Triple-A Tacoma this season, but this was a slightly bigger situation with a crowd of 29,090 roaring and playoff positioning riding on the outcome.
“The adrenaline was going, the crowd was going,” said Smith. “It was a good time, playing against the Oakland Athletics. It’s safe to say you call them a rival right now in this playoff push. It was a big moment and I was happy to get the job done.”
The big right-hander faced four lefties in his six-batter stint as A’s manager Bob Melvin went to his bench for a pair of pinch hitters, but that didn’t faze him either.
“I have the same confidence against lefties and righties,” Smith said. “I get to mix my changeup in a little more to lefties, so it actually gives me a little more confidence knowing I have three pitches to use instead of just two. But I know my go-to pitch is my slider and that’s going to be more effective against right-handed hitters.”
So add another weapon to McClendon’s bullpen arsenal, which has been a force all season long. Clearly the skipper isn’t afraid to use Smith in any situation, outside of the closer role held down by Fernando Rodney.
“They told me I’d be in anywhere from the third to the eighth inning,” Smith said. “I’m just going to be ready everyday if they call me. That’s my job.”