Smith an instant hit in leadoff spot
Outfielder homers, doubles and drives in three for Rockies
DENVER -- The new season started and Rockies outfielder Seth Smith was swinging like it was September of last season. But the September swing had not yet arrived.
Even after his two-run homer and RBI double from the leadoff position in Tuesday night's 11-3 victory over the Mets, Smith said he best swing is missing.
"I got a lot of high fives, a lot of media attention tonight," said Smith, who is 4-for-16 (.250) with two doubles and a homer. "But I'm trying to make sure everybody knows I'm not locked in. I ran into a couple of balls. But right now it's a battle for me."
After going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in the season-opening three-game series in Milwaukee, Smith went 2-for-5 with much better at-bats in a three-game home set against the Padres. With Carlos Gonzalez nursing a tight left hamstring and out of the lineup for Tuesday night's opener of three with the Mets at Coors Field, manager Jim Tracy placed Smith in the leadoff spot in Gonzalez's place.
"In Milwaukee and even the first couple of days against San Diego, I don't know what I was trying to do -- swing hard and hope I hit it," Smith said. "That's where I can eventually get to, but right now I'm not there. I need to take what they give me, work up the middle and let the ball get deep."
Tracy placed Smith ahead of switch-hitting No. 2 hitter Dexter Fowler in order to neutralize the Mets' bullpen, which has three left-handed pitchers. When a lefty is on the mound, there is a right-hander to separate left-handers Smith and Todd Helton, the No. 3 hitter.
Tracy said Smith is merely going through the process of getting accustomed to playing. Smith is one of five outfielders Tracy is trying to rotate, so not everyone is getting regular at-bats.
"We're one week into the season," Tracy said. "You have to give guys an opportunity to settle in a little bit and get back to where we were at last season. In Seth's case, the swing that he had last year, he's been piecing some of that together. He took very good at-bats in the ballgame on Sunday."
Smith hit .293 with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs last season as a part-time starter, and was a key figure in the September run to clinch a playoff berth.
"You want to jump in there and think you can hit the way you did at the end of last year," Smith said. "But then you realize hitting in the big leagues is really hard. You come in during the offseason, go through Spring Training and there's something in your mind that you're just going to go up there and get hits.
"That's not the case. There's a lot of thinking and technical stuff involved. I tend to overlook those things early."
On Tuesday night, Smith popped out against the Mets' John Maine with two on and one out in the second inning.
"I have to think about my swing a little bit and I'm not able to focus all my thoughts on what the pitcher is trying to do to me, and that's holding me back for a little bit," Smith said.
Afterward, he conversed with veteran Jason Giambi, who reminded him of some flaws -- problems Smith had been working on, only to have them creep back into his swing on the first couple of at-bats on Tuesday.
Nothing looked wrong when he homered in the third.
"The same guy that didn't have a very good at-bat in the second inning hits one into the bullpen," Tracy said. "The point of the story is we had some young people a year ago that would get muddled up like we did in the second inning, and we would see the adjustment but we'd see it the day after or the day after that, or two or three or four days down the road.
"We're making the adjustment in the next at-bat. Smith turned around and had a tremendous at-bat."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.