Smith's bat draws Hurdle's praise
Rockies outfielder showing he's more than pinch-hit option
PHOENIX -- Most Rockies fans know of Seth Smith as a pinch-hitter, and a really good one. But that's not an appropriate label for Smith, manager Clint Hurdle said on Tuesday.Of Smith's 116 Major League at-bats, 42 have been as a pinch-hitter, and he has a .333 average in those. At 26, the left-handed-hitting Smith has an opportunity to expand that resume now that left fielder Matt Holliday was traded to the Athletics during the offseason.
"The guy has hit pretty much wherever he has been," Hurdle said. "Mechanically sound, he's short to the ball, he stays in pretty good against left-handed pitching. There's a lot to like about his swing."On Tuesday, Smith hit a two-run homer off Brewers left-hander Mitch Stetter during the Rockies' 8-6 loss at Maryvale Baseball Park. Daniel Ortmeier, competing for a reserve spot, also had a two-run shot, as a pinch-hitter in the fifth off Carlos Villanueva. The Rockies summoned Smith three times last season from Triple-A Colorado Springs. By season's end, they were easing him into the lineup in center field for the on-again, off-again Willy Taveras. Smith was 0-for-11 against lefties. Hurdle, however, believes Smith has the ability to hit with regular opportunity. "He's got game-time pop," Hurdle said. "He's not a guy you watch take BP [batting practice] and go, 'Wow, look at that ball.' He just tries to square balls up, hit the ball hard where it's pitched. "When the ball gets elevated, he doesn't try to change his swing a whole lot. That's one of the signs you look for in a young hitter. You see the ball up in the zone and guys swing harder. The pitcher has already done you a favor when he elevates the ball. Just put your good swing on it." Greg Smith gave up two runs, on Casey McGehee's home run in the second inning on Tuesday. He also had some hard-hit fly balls when he didn't reach his exact location, but it was an improvement over his initial outing of the spring. Competing for the fifth rotation spot, the left-hander has a 9.00 ERA. "I wasn't anxious and I was comfortable out there," Smith said. "I threw more quality pitches, except for the homer, which was a mental mistake more than a physical mistake. The pitcher was on deck, and I've got to get back into the mind-flow of a National League-type game." The Rockies acquired Smith from the Athletics in the Holliday trade, but he was drafted by the D-backs. Greg Reynolds gave up three hits, but two were home runs -- a Chris Duffy three-run shot and Mike Rivera solo job. He yielded four runs and walked three. But Hurdle found positives in the way Reynolds plugged. "The one thing about him, he didn't back off the gas," Hurdle said. "He didn't slow down his pace or tempo. He kept coming after people. That's one of the things that's going to give you something to hang onto. He's not pitching away from the bat." The Rockies' top choice in 2006 out of Stanford, Reynolds is working on his fastball command. Hurdle also said Reynolds must trust his eyes as much as his arm. "At the end of the day, the batter tells you what you've got and how you're able to execute, also," Hurdle said. "He's got to read some swings today and realize where the mistakes were made." The Rockies have signed infielder Mark Bellhorn to a Minor League contract. He is working out at Hi Corbett and will join Minor League camp. Bellhorn played for the Rockies in 2003.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.