Smith Making His Case Known|
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Saturday, March 3, 2007
Anyone that was able to see Joe Smith pitch for the Brooklyn Cyclones last season knew he was something special. Now that he’s getting a chance to strut his stuff with the Mets in Spring Training, every other Met fan is finding out what fans in Brooklyn knew a long time ago.
Joe Smith has major league stuff.
Not allowing a runner in his intrasquad performance despite noticeable jitters, Smith has opened the eyes of his teammates and coaches, especially former first-round pick Lastings Milledge, who felt the wrath of Smith’s slider and was sent back to bench without a hit for his troubles.
"I was a little nervous, I'm not going to lie," Smith, who had a 0.45 ERA and 28 strikeouts in just 20 innings for the Mets Single-A affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones last year told the Associated Press after he pitched for the first time against his teammates in an intrasquad game on February 27. "I got out there the first time on a big field looking at the lineup they had out there. It was nice to face those guys."
The thing that caught the Mets eye last season when they drafted Smith in the third-round of last year’s draft was his delivery, which is extremely similar to former-Met, Chad Bradford. As a matter of fact, when asked in Brooklyn last season how he’d come up with the delivery, Smith told reporters that he saw it in a video game and thought it was “cool,” the rest is history. Who was the pitcher he was emulating, you ask? None other than Chad Bradford himself.
To make matters worse for opposing hitters, the 6’2, 205 pound Smith is downright scary on the mound, armed with a penance-like stare that even the marvel comics super hero, the Ghost Rider would love to have in his arsenal. Former Cyclones manager George Greer called it a “Stone-Cold Stare,” and felt that it was one of Smith’s greatest attributes.
At 22, Smith himself understands the mental aspect of the game a lot better than you’d think he would.
“My head coach at Wright State, Rob Cooper worked really hard at the mental aspect of the game,” said Smith last season in Brooklyn. “I can’t tell you how much he taught me about the mental game. I made a choice to listen to him and I can’t tell you how much it’s helped me.”
Add in a low 90’s fastball and a slider that belongs in “Dancing with the Stars,” never mind in a young pitcher’s back pocket and it’s no wonder the Mets are excited about Smith and what he could provide out of the bullpen this season.
However for the time being, Smith feels that it’s best to take things slow and not get too far ahead of himself. He knows it’s only a matter of time until he gets his shot. Until then, he’s going to do everything it takes to make the most of the opportunity the Mets have given him.
"I'm not worried about who's looking and who was watching and all that," Smith told the Associated Press. "I'd drive myself crazy. If they want to bring me to Shea, I'm all for it. Let's go. But if I'm going to the minor leagues, then I'll go there, work on it, get better and hopefully some day get to Shea. That's the goal."
A few more strikeouts in intrasquad games may make that goal an accomplished one.