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Shorthanded Reds turn to Smith for Cubs opener

MLB.com @m_sheldon

ST. LOUIS -- For the second time this month, in a series against the Cubs, the Reds rotation will be shorthanded, and manager Bryan Price and will dip into the bullpen for a starter. Once again it will be Josh Smith, who gets the ball in Friday's opener at Great American Ball Park.

During the Reds' 6-1 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sept. 20, Smith pitched well over his three innings (66 pitches). He allowed one earned run, three hits and two walks, with three strikeouts.

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ST. LOUIS -- For the second time this month, in a series against the Cubs, the Reds rotation will be shorthanded, and manager Bryan Price and will dip into the bullpen for a starter. Once again it will be Josh Smith, who gets the ball in Friday's opener at Great American Ball Park.

During the Reds' 6-1 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sept. 20, Smith pitched well over his three innings (66 pitches). He allowed one earned run, three hits and two walks, with three strikeouts.

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"The goal is to go as long as I can and try to be a little more efficient," Smith said. "Last time some guys fouled off some tough pitches, and they had long at-bats. I'll try to get early contact and go as long as I can."

Smith last pitched on Sunday in Milwaukee, throwing a scoreless inning of relief. He threw a bullpen session during Wednesday's game vs. the Cardinals when it was clear he would not be needed. Before his last start, he had two days of rest following a relief appearance of 62 pitches.

"It's not like he'll have an unlimited workload that he can take on," Price said. "We'll just do the eye test and see where he's at, with a preset idea of what the max number of innings and pitches might be."

In 31 games (54 2/3 innings) this season, Smith is 3-2 with a 4.77 ERA, 54 hits, 25 walks and 47 strikeouts.

"You know how it is in the bullpen. You have a couple of outings where you give up a bunch of runs, and it really hurts the earned run average," Price said. "But he's been in a lot of situations where he's given us multiple innings with good quality. He competes well. I think the role we used him in last year as a starter was probably not the best way to break him in at the big league level, especially surrounded by a bunch of rookies."

Last season, Smith was among the Reds rookies who started 64 consecutive games to end the struggling season. He made seven starts and appeared in nine games overall and went 0-4 with a 6.82 ERA. The Reds took him off the 40-man roster after the season and did not invite him to big league camp.

"The good decision was [for him] to stay in the organization where we had people that knew him and to go down and pitch in Triple-A, pitch well and bring himself back to this opportunity," Price said.

Smith was called up from Triple-A Louisville on May 22 and spent most of the season with the team. He was recalled a second time on Sept. 6.

"Coming off last year being a struggle and me not pitching like I'm capable of, to come back this year with another opportunity and take a little bit better advantage of it, hopefully I can carve out a niche for myself, whether it's in the bullpen or in the rotation, and finish strong and come into next year better," Smith said.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Josh Smith