08/26/08 10:26 PM ET
Leadoff spot no different to Smith
Rockies outfielder tops lineup Monday for first time in bigs
By Rick Eymer / Special to MLB.com
Smith, who wasn't in Tuesday's starting lineup, became an immediate fan favorite in Denver with his contributions to the Rockies' late run to the playoffs last September, getting five hits in seven pinch-hit appearances. He drove in his first Major League run in the National League Championship Series.
"There are certainly spots where you consider the situation," Smith said. "My first at-bat, I try to be patient and see a couple of pitches. If I'm hitting ahead of [Matt] Holliday, I know it's different than if I'm hitting ahead of the pitcher. For the most part, it's the same thing."Hurdle said he used Smith in the No. 1 spot to take advantage of a matchup. "Taking [Willy] Tavares out of the No. 2 spot was not an option," Hurdle said. "Plus, if we got something going at the bottom of the order, we had a guy there who can drive in runs."
He walked against Matt Cain in his first effort as the leadoff hitter."I don't think patience -- rather, I try not to swing at pitches I can't drive until there are two strikes," Smith said. "I like to think I'm capable of putting the ball in play." He spent two months as the Drillers' leadoff hitter in a lineup that included current teammates Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Stewart and Chris Iannetta. Joe Koshansky led the team with 31 homers and 109 RBIs.
Smith, showing off his versatility, was second on the team in runs scored (79) and RBIs (71) and first in hits (154). He added 15 home runs."We had a good lineup and leading off then was enjoyable," he said. "I doubt that figured into [Hurdle's] decision, though."
Smith is one of three former college quarterbacks in the Rockies' clubhouse, although Todd Helton and hitting coach Alan Cockrell actually played the position for Tennessee.
While one of Helton's teammates was Peyton Manning, Smith was a teammate of Eli Manning at Mississippi. Knowing he wasn't going to play much, Smith never attended spring football while playing baseball. His only college football experience came as a wide receiver."It's fun to talk football with them," Smith said. "We all still enjoy the game."
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.