TAMPA, FL - Tampa Yankees slugger Greg Bird is primed for a major second half surge after a back…
"He's a bulldog on the mound and I love his pitch package," Borrell said. "He loves to compete."
The only thing that phases Smith, it seems, is the brutal Florida heat.
"It's getting hot here, but that's about it." Smith laughed. "It's been a good season."
To shed some perspective, Smith is not the type of guy that's going to blow batters away with high intensity heaters. Despite a somewhat low strikeout rate of 0.91 K's per inning, Smith's has been getting hitters to ground out often. In fact, his ground ball rate now stands at about 65 percent, a remarkable statistic considering the league average for pitchers is about 45 percent.
"I've been getting a lot of ground balls, I guess," Smith remarked. "Just trying to pitch to contact has really helped me a lot during my career."
Smith's aforementioned pitch package has been another strong suit for him this season. Among his arsenal of pitches is a mid 90's four-seam fastball, an effective changeup, and a dynamic curveball.
Though scouts have praised his curveball for it's ability to stymie hitters and cause them to ground out, Smith disagrees.
"My best pitch is probably my fastball and the pitch I need to work on most is my curveball. I mean it's been good but it's not exactly where I want it to be," he said.
Regardless, the numbers don't lie for Smith. His ERA is incredibly low for a pitcher that's appeared as frequently as he has and his command has been top notch. Borrell believes the key to all this success is execution.
"Execution has been key for him. He's had a good year because he's been executing his pitches. Whenever you have a pitch package like he does it's just a matter of executing," Borrell said.
A notable game in which Smith's execution was on full display was an early season matchup against the Daytona Cubs on April 19th. He pitched two innings of relief, only giving up one hit and fanning two batters in the process.
"It was kind of early in the season. I went in during the sixth inning and pitched until the eighth. That game got me going," he said.
In Borrell's eyes, however, there hasn't been one game that's defined Smith's season, as he believes Smith has been ready to go at all times.
"For me it's not even one game. Everyday he comes to the field ready to work. That's a very nice trait to have as a player. He loves what he does and he works very hard at it," Borrell said.
Despite his success in Tampa, Smith is more than eager to take the next step. For now though, he's focused on taking it one pitch at a time.
"I'd like to be in Trenton sooner than later; that was a goal out of Spring Training. But it starts with strike one, out one, and doing what I can to help these guys win."
When asked what Major Leaguer he'd compare himself to, Smith commented that he always revered former Yankee great Andy Pettite growing up.
"When I was a kid I tried to pitch like Andy Pettitte a lot. I didn't really have the same stuff, it was more his hardworking attitude that I tried to copy."
If Smith continues to exemplify consistency the rest of this season he could be on his way to following the footsteps of his childhood idol Pettitte. Strikeout rate aside, Alex Smith has been quietly assembling an impressive 2014 campaign in Tampa.
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