The way Chipper Smith sees it, every remaining start doubles as a tryout for a spot in the Marlins system the next season.
Coming out of the Draft in the 38th round -- as Smith did in 2012 -- can make it difficult to get noticed. But striking out a career-high 11 over seven one-hit frames in Class A Greensboro's 3-0 shutout of Hickory might help ensure his future.
Smith turned in the stellar effort six days after he scattered three hits and a walk while striking out nine over six scoreless innings against Delmarva.
"I'd have to say everything was coming in for strikes. I worked off my fastball and changeup, set them up pretty well with everything," he said. "That was only my fifth or sixth start of the year too. I started in extended [spring training] and was in the 'pen up until about a month-and-a-half ago."
The left-hander, who was drafted out of Cumberland University in Tennessee, has only made six starts this year. But Smith said he's hit a rhythm in the role he once filled in college.
He hasn't allowed a run over his last 21 1/3 innings dating back to the first frame of his Aug. 11 start against Augusta.
"I like starting because I can get my mind right, get focused. I know when I'm going to pitch, I can get into a routine -- know when to do long-toss, know when to do bullpen. Mentally, I'm just prepared," he said.
In Smith's debut last year, he logged just 26 innings between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Marlins and short-season Jamestown, notching a 3.46 ERA with 19 strikeouts and eight walks.
Then he headed to extended this season before finally arriving at Greensboro, where he logged a 3.30 ERA in 62 2/3 innings of relief. He's shown much more as a starter, however, with a 1.38 ERA in 26 frames since making his first start Aug. 4.
Whatever curiosity the Marlins may have had about their late-round pick has to have been even further piqued by the resume he's built this year. Smith now sports an 8-3 record, a 2.74 ERA, 98 strikeouts and 33 walks in 88 2/3 frames.
"I think I've opened up some eyes this year. I was a late-round pick, so there wasn't a lot of money invested in me," he said, "Doing as well as I have, I don't think anyone expected me to do that, but it's worked out and been a good year.
"I'm pretty happy with how this year's gone. I knew coming in, I'd have to have a good year to have a spot next year. Every time I go out there is me trying to get a job for next year. I have one start left this year so I'm just going to stay focused, finish strong and get to work in the offseason ... hopefully keep doing what I'm doing."
Offensively for the Grasshoppers, Matt Jengel went 3-for-4 and fell a triple short of a cycle and Viosergy Rosa added an RBI.
Reliever Dane Stone struck out one and walked one in the eighth and Ronald Barnes struck out the side in the niunth to preserve the one-hitter.