Smith heads back to AAA after strong effort with Royals

Smith heads back to Triple-A after strong effort with Royals

Newnan lefty picks up save in return to minors

Will Smith's 23rd birthday didn't exactly go as planned, despite celebrating the best month of his short professional baseball career to date.

After coming into his own in his first stint as a major-league relief pitcher, Smith was optioned back to Triple-A Omaha by the Kansas City Royals, as the team juggled its bullpen following a three-inning outing last Sunday against Oakland.

After dropping his ERA from 9.00 to 2.70 over his first four relief appearances in the majors, the 6-foot-5 lefthander gave up a pair of homers among five hits against the A's, his first runs allowed since being called up to the major leagues for the fifth time over the past two seasons.

He was 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA this year for the Royals to go with 15 strikeouts. Smith did not walk a batter in his 11  innings since arriving with Kansas City on June 25 for a game against the Atlanta Braves.

'He was throwing the ball good. We just needed an arm,' said Royals manager Ned Yost told 'We had a day where we used three guys, and pitch counts got up so that all three of them were going to be unavailable for the next three days. We didn't want to come in here short.'

The former Northgate High ace, who arrived in a trade three years ago after originally being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 2008, now has a career 5.09 ERA in the Majors. Smith was 5-3 with a 2.88 ERA in 17 games for Omaha prior to his promotion.

'It was the same as it was when I was up here last year,' Smith told of his big league experience. 'You have a good time out here. You compete against the best in the world every day.'

Starting the year in Omaha following 16 starts with the Royals as a rookie in 2012, Smith became one of the StormChasers' most consistent pitchers, going 5-3 with an ERA under 3.00 while eventually being moved to the bullpen at Kansas City's request. The Royals added three veteran starting pitches in the offseason, two in a trade with Tampa Bay.

He made his return to the mound on Thursday night by closing out a 4-2 victory with an inning of scoreless relief against a Round Rock lineup that now includes Manny Ramirez after being signed by the Texas Rangers last week. Smith gave up a two-out double and a walk before getting Jose Felix to ground-out to first to end the game while dropping his ERA at Omaha to 2.82.

Recent attempts by the Newnan Times-Herald to reach Smith by phone have been unsuccessful.

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