Melvin applauds Smith's performance, 'moxie'

Journeyman pitcher earns third start in first big league stint since 2010

July 23rd, 2017

NEW YORK -- Chris Smith isn't going anywhere just yet.

The 36-year-old journeyman pitcher, who earlier this month got the surprise nod for a spot start, has been awarded a third start Monday in Toronto, after the A's opted to keep right-hander at Triple-A Nashville for another rehab outing.

Cotton, who has been sidelined by a right thumb blister, totaled 65 pitches in his first rehab start, "so the prudent thing to do is let him go down, throw 85 pitches and when he comes back he's back to the 100-pitch mark," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You don't want to just jam him back in here just for the sake of doing it."

Not when Smith is pitching like he belongs here. The right-hander, who last year was called up by the A's in a relief role for his first big league stint since 2010, has allowed just four earned runs in a combined 13 innings in his first two starts. On Tuesday, after tossing seven one-run innings against the Rays, he was one out away from celebrating his first big league win since 2008 when blew a save opportunity.

"You can't help but have an affinity for a guy like that after what he's gone through and what he's done in his career," Melvin said. "But for the most part, it's been performance. For a guy you're hoping you maybe get five, five-plus out of, he's done more than that. He's gone seven innings, he's come out with a lead, obviously has a lot of moxie.

"There's a lot to be learned from for the younger guys. He knows where he's throwing the baseball. He reads swings well. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he deserves another start or two or whatever it'll end up being based on performance."

Said Smith: "If he's saying that, then that means I'm doing my job."

Smith isn't so much focused on holding onto a rotation spot so much as he is a place on the A's roster, noting, "I'm trying to do well so I stay on the team. So whether that's the starting rotation or the bullpen, second base, first base, I don't care, I just want to do well. I just want to stay on the team. I want to be around these guys.

"I'm so happy to be here. It's the big leagues. You've got 17 flavors of seeds, you've got a chef cooking you breakfast. This is not the real world. A lot of guys have more time than I do, a lot of guys have been there, done that, but I don't think it's something that will ever hit me or set in. I know how easily it can be taken away. I just appreciate it a lot."

Worth noting

• The A's are eyeing Thursday in Toronto for the return of reliever , who has been on the disabled list with a right knee strain since May 20.