Pro Baseball

Smith satisfied with new role in Royals' pen

Making a shift from a starting pitcher to the bullpen is no easy task for a player at any level. 

Will Smith never hesitated if it meant returning to the Kansas City Royals and facing major league batters again.

“I’ll play shortstop,” Smith said. “Any way to get here, you’re here.”

The Newnan left-hander is back with the Royals for the third time this season and the fifth time over the last two years after making two lengthier stints with the big club during his rookie 2012 season. 

He was recalled twice again in April for doubleheaders under the league’s 26-man roster rule, starting one game against the Cleveland Indians before being returned to the Triple-A Omaha Stormchasers. Shortly afterwards, the Royals made the decision to start using the 6-foot-5, 250-pound southpaw in relief situations. 

Smith answered by allowing just one run and six hits in his first seven appearances before getting yet another call from Kansas City, this time when the team needed to add a lefty to its bullpen. 

So far, he’s made the adjustment, throwing an inning of scoreless relief during Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Braves shortly after arriving from Omaha. The Royals, who split two games at home against the Braves following a 4-3 win in 10 innings in Wednesday’s late finale, now head to Minnesota for a weekend series with the Twins. 

“It’s starting to get easier down there,” Smith told the Kansas City Star writer Tod Palmer of the adjustment to the bullpen. “The biggest change is the routine. I’ve told a million people that I was used to having five days, so the workout’s different, the running’s different, how many pitches you throw before you go in is different. Now, it’s a little light work, a little light running and eight pitches — you’re ready to go. That was tough to get adjusted to.”

The one-time Northgate High ace, who twice earned Times-Herald Player of the Year honors during his varsity career, is still pleased to be a part of the Royals’ plans despite movement in the offseason with the team’s pitching staff. Kansas City added three new starters, two in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays after Smith was used in the No. 5 spot in the rotation for the last two-plus months of the 2012 season. 

“I’ll stay down here for the rest of my career if I have to as long as I’m in the big leagues,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter.”

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