Smith recalled by Royals just in time for visit from Braves
The old saying goes, “timing is everything.”
And a short wait seemed well worth the patience for Will Smith.
The Newnan left-hander was recalled from Triple-A Omaha by the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, just in time to rejoin the major leagues prior to a two-game series against his boyhood favorites, the Atlanta Braves, during a rare midweek Interleague series at Kauffman Stadium.
It’s Atlanta’s first trip to Kansas City since Interleague play began in 1997.
It’ll also be the former Northgate High ace’s fifth trip to the major leagues in just over a year and the third for the 2013 season.
Smith made two brief appearances in the majors early in the year for a pair of Royals doubleheaders under the 26-player rule, making a four-inning stint during a spot start against the Cleveland Indians during his only appearance in 2013 before being returned to Omaha.
But it will be his first return since being moved to the bullpen.
“Happy to get back to KC and help the team out. Pretty excited that it’s against my favorite team growing up the Braves,” Smith wrote via his Twitter account. Immediate attempts to reach Smith on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
The Royals organization recently made a decision to start using Smith in relief appearances at the Triple-A level, where he had posted a solid 5-3 record and a 2.88 ERA in 17 appearances, 10 of which were starts. On Sunday, Smith gave up his first run allowed in his seven relief appearances this year, which covered the last 10 2/3 of his 68 2/3 innings pitched.
Smith had a team-high 74 strikeouts while netting his first save and hold of his minor-league career before being recalled.
“We are trying to get him acclimated to that role,” Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo told the Kansas City Star on June 10, “if we were to need him to work out of the bullpen in the major leagues.”
He had allowed just six hits in his first relief appearances.
The lefty had finished the 2012 season in Kansas City after making his first two visits to the major leagues. His debut came last May 23 in Yankees Stadium before being returned to Omaha in early June.
Smith then rejoined the Royals in mid-July and made his final 13 starts while finishing with a 6-9 record and a 5.32 ERA. He held opponents to two or fewer runs in two of his last four appearances in 2012, including seven scoreless innings in a 9-1 win against the Minnesota Twins.
He had become part of a crowded group of starting pitchers in spring training, however, after the Royals added veterans James Shields and Wade Davis from Tampa Bay in a trade for prized outfield prospect Will Myers, as well as Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the offseason.
Smith joins a bullpen that includes former starter Bruce Chen, a former Brave. He replaces struggling reliever Kelvin Herrara, another 23 year-old, who allowed a run in 2/3 of an inning in Sunday’s 7-6 win over the Chicago White Sox.
“He’s been throwing the ball extremely well down there,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, who plans to use Smith against right- and left-handed hitters. “It gives us a little depth until Kelvin gets going.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this story)