In his short professional career, relief pitcher Chad Smith of the Colorado Rockies has already learned the virtue of patience.
Smith, who played collegiately at Ole Miss, made his Major League debut on May 22, tossing a scoreless inning in the second game of Colorado’s doubleheader at Washington.
For Smith, the journey to the Majors has included not only a trade from the team that originally drafted him but a setback due to an injury as well as time honing his skills in the Minor Leagues.
Chad Smith of the Colorado Rockies is in his initial career stint as a member of an active roster in the Majors.
All that took place before the Colorado Rockies selected his contract from Triple-A Albuquerque May 21, giving the right-hander his first career appearance on an active MLB roster.
Originally an 11th-round selection by Miami in the 2016 draft, Smith was traded to Colorado on August 14, 2020, in exchange for reliever Jesus Tinoco.
Smith then attended his first Major League Spring Training in 2021, but an oblique injury hampered his progress during the remainder of the season.
“I felt like I was throwing the ball well last year when that happened,” he said. “Mentally, you just got to stay the course really. You got to be patient, believe in yourself and just try to get back on the field as soon as possible. But frustrating last year? Absolutely, for sure.”
While he did not make any major changes mechanically with his pitching motion following his injury-plagued 2021 campaign, Smith did have some specific goals in mind as he entered this season.
“For me, my two biggest focal points were staying healthy, obviously, and just being available, and No. 2, is just limit the walks and to attack hitters more often,” he said.
“To this point, in Albuquerque, and in (the) spring, I felt that I’ve done that and it’s helped me a lot.”
The numbers compiled by Smith this season with the Isotopes, before his call up by the Rox, bear out the results of his goals.
In 17 appearances with Albuquerque, he notched a 1.89 earned run average (19.0 IP, 4 ER) with five walks and 24 strikeouts.
His nine saves topped the Pacific Coast League at the time of his recall.
Smith did incorporate one change into his regular pitching routine and that adjustment has produced dividends.
“One change I did make this year in Albuquerque was when we did go back home or did go on the road, if I had a few days that I didn’t throw, I would try to throw maybe a small — like 8-to-10-pitch — ‘touch and feel’ in the bullpen wherever we went just to try to get a feel of how the ball is moving, even though it’s not at 100% effort,” he said.
“I think that has helped me as far as staying in the zone more often, getting into more leverage counts and then being able to put hitters away and get some chases.”
With the Isotopes, Smith had an active streak of 10.2 scoreless innings in Triple-A action, dating back to April 30 while amassing at least one strikeout in 15 of his 17 outings.
In a clean inning in his MLB debut, Smith continued his penchant for punchouts by recording a strikeout against the Nationals.
“It was incredible; everything I’ve ever dreamed of,” he said of his debut while joining Elehuris Montero and Brian Serven as Rockies who have made their initial MLB appearance in 2022.
“My support system has been fantastic. From my parents to my wife to my in-laws, my brother, my friends, family, everybody. They’ve made the transition very easy. Everybody in the clubhouse has made the transition easy. It’s a dream come true. I couldn’t have pictured it any better.”
Despite rarely traveling via plane, Smith’s parents — who live in Alabama — joined his wife in flying to Washington, D.C., with the trio making it to Nationals Park just in time to see him appear in relief in the second game of the May 22 twinbill.
“They’ve never really had to (travel by plane),” Smith said about his parents coming to see him perform both collegiately and professionally in the past.
‘We never did a lot of traveling. We’re from the South. We like our hunting, we like our fishing. When I was with Miami and played (in the Minor Leagues) in Jupiter (Florida), 11 hours they would drive.
“It’s just that they prefer to drive. But now, I think they will be on quite a few more flights in the future.”
Note: Smith was sent back to Triple-A before Wednesday’s double-header against the Marlins, but was then recalled to serve as the team’s 27th man for the day.