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Smith's bunting a way to highlight fleet feet

MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Mallex Smith knows how his bread is buttered. Speed is his game.

Given that fact, the new Rays outfielder tries to do everything he can to incorporate his speed into the equation. Which is why he spends an inordinate amount of time laying 'em down.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Mallex Smith knows how his bread is buttered. Speed is his game.

Given that fact, the new Rays outfielder tries to do everything he can to incorporate his speed into the equation. Which is why he spends an inordinate amount of time laying 'em down.

If you see a Rays player working on his bunting skills, there's a good chance the player you see is Smith.

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"Old-school guys used to do it," Smith said. "If I'm fast, why wouldn't I make the most out of all of my weapons? Bunting is a weapon. A hit is a hit, and my game is to be on base. The more havoc I can cause, [the better]. There are so many dynamics a bunt can bring. It gets the pitcher off the mound. It messes up the order of things. It changes the way defenses have to play you. Why wouldn't I put that in my arsenal if it can truly help my game?"

Smith, the first player in team history to wear No. 0, came to the Rays in the four-player trade that sent Drew Smyly to the Mariners. The 23-year-old Tallahassee native said he's always bunted.

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"But when I got into pro ball, I took more of a serious liking to bunting," he said. "You play so many games and you always have your swing, and if you can resort to something else, like a bunt, it's so much better. You can turn that into a weapon. Now you're cooking with grease."

If Smith is putting down a sacrifice bunt, he said he's "more about touch" and "putting it in a dead area," and not as cognizant of the angles. If he's bunting for a base hit, he says it's all about angles and placement. "You want to be a little more precise on base-hit bunts."

Smith surmised that bunting is "a lot harder than you think it is."

"People think bunting is easy," he said. "But in retrospect, you're putting your nose in there with the ball. You put your nose in there with the bat, and you have to watch the ball all the way to your bat. You have to watch the ball all the way to the bat to be a good bunter. And you're trying to place the ball. You're trying to catch the ball with the bat and trying to put it in a good place. Just depending on how they play you."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays, Mallex Smith