Smith in full stride after healthy offseason

February 20th, 2021

A lot can change over the course of the next six weeks, but coming into Spring Training it appears that left-hander is a good bet to make the starting rotation.

After coming over from the Marlins at the Trade Deadline last year, Smith compiled a 2.45 ERA in four games (three starts) for the D-backs.

If the season started today, the 29-year-old Smith likely would join , , and in the rotation. Just don't tell him he has a won a spot yet.

"I don’t like to think of it like I have a spot locked down," Smith said. "I don’t want to get too comfortable. I think when people get too comfortable they don’t perform well, and that’s when they lose their jobs.

“Competition is everything for me. That’s what drives me. I’m always trying to get better. If you’re not trying to get better, you shouldn’t be playing this game. Competition is fine. I think everybody here enjoys it."

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo found out firsthand last year just how competitive Smith is -- and that the pitcher isn't shy about showing it.

When he joined the D-backs, Smith was in the process of working his way back from being on the injured list with COVID-19. So the D-backs limited his pitch count in his first start for them at 40. The next time they held it to 61.

Smith voiced his displeasure to Lovullo, who welcomes that kind of fire from his players.

"You could see from the intense looks on his face that he was very disappointed when he was taken out of games," Lovullo said. "But, you know, he knew what the pitch count was prior to going out there, but there was a trigger inside of him that made him want to stay on the mound. And that's what I love, even though he hit that pitch count and we previously talked about it and he understood that he wasn't going to go beyond it, he was still disappointed. And that's a great quality that he has, and I think all good starting pitchers have that mentality."

Smith chalked it up to "just the way I am, I'm just a competitor.” And it's the same mindset that he takes to every offseason.

While he recovered from COVID-19 last summer, Smith was unable to get to the gym to work out, and he ended up putting on around 15 pounds. That was tough to lose during the season, but he made it a priority to slim down in the offseason.

"In season, I don’t get to work out as much as I want to," he said. "It’s just sort of about maintaining during the season. And during the offseason, that’s where you get better. That's where you get bigger and stronger and faster."

For the second straight offseason, Smith worked hard on developing his curveball. He wants a breaking ball that’s slower than his slider, which he felt was too similar in speed to his fastball.

Since Smith was limited to 14 innings last year, he did not get a chance to really get a feel for the curve, but he did throw it 20 times, according to Statcast, and he did not give up a hit on the pitch.

"The curveball is coming along really well," Smith said. "I picked it up pretty quick, actually. I think it's right where I need it to be. I think it’s going to help my repertoire a lot this season."