Matt Smith hasn't been pitching clean innings this season, but broadcaster Larry Andersen believes Charlie Manuel will stick by his lone left-handed reliever because he has the stuff to turn it around.
Smith relieved starter Freddy Garcia after Garcia surrendered a double to lead off the 6th inning yesterday. Smith was called on to face Josh Hamilton, Adam Dunn and stayed in to face Javier Valentin, getting Hamilton to strike out, then ran the count full to Dunn and lost him on a borderline call. Valentin then lined out and Smith was lifted for Geoff Geary.
Andersen said the key for Smith is to get his first pitch over for a strike, as he did against Hamilton, and stop trying to be too fine. Before yesterday, Smith had retired only two of the nine left-handers he’s faced all season.
With Brett Myers inching toward the closer role, along with a workman-like effort from Antonio Alfonseca so far, I’d like to see Smith become the next reliever to start stringing together some consistent innings.
Getting to know Mikey
READING, Pa. - Beer in hand and standing near the picnic pavilion along the third base side, I heard the name "Mikey" circulating from an approaching family and knew I was surrounded by Mike Costanzo’s relatives. Ramona and David Gallo, Costanzo’s aunt and uncle, couldn’t find seats for themselves and their three children, but this spot was suitable and very close to Mikey. I chatted with David for over an hour about his nephew and how much it meant when the Phils drafted him. Big Mike, Costanzo’s pop, is a huge Phillies fan, so when the Phillies made his son a top draft choice two seasons ago, it was like a dream.
David asked what I thought about his nephew and I said it looks like he’s getting a hard lesson in the quality of Double-A pitching. He struck out his first at bat yesterday against a touted left-hander, making it 26 strikeouts in 58 at bats for Costanzo this season. Scouts either love him or hate him, I said, but all agree on his sound defense and rifle arm. If he can get it together, there’s an opportunity for him in Philadelphia down the road.
Costanzo is always smiling, made even more noticeable by his gleaming white teeth, which David joked about. He says Reading is much better than any other spot he’s been because he can jet home whenever he wants. In Batavia, he stayed in a basement and ate a steady diet of Applebee’s. Nothing phases him. He’d play for dirt; he loves it so much.
In his second at bat, Costanzo bounced a grounder to the shortstop, but the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag by a foot. Everyone saw it but the umpire, who called him out. Costanzo, laughing and smiling just moments before as his family called out from the peanut gallery, was now getting tossed for arguing the call. David said he’s never seen him act like this. It’s frustration, I said. That’s what a start like this will do.
Everyone is wondering when outfielder Michael Bourn will get sent back to Triple-A. An equally justifiable question is how much longer can they use a roster spot on Jayson Werth, who has two at bats since Wednesday. At least with Bourn, they’re filling a need by using him to run, catch and throw. Greg Dobbs, who started in left yesterday, can play multiple positions. I have a hard time believing Werth, who missed all of last season, is in any sort of rhythm at all. I see no value in it, especially over what Chris Coste could bring as a third catcher.
Tonight's starter, Chris Sampson, is the pitcher the Phils faced the last time they hosted a Monday makeup game with the Astros. You remember it well, I'm sure. Sampson will face Adam Eaton, who essentially replaced Randy Wolf in the rotation. Wolf started that fateful night on Sept. 25. Let's sit Matt Smith out this one, shall we?