The St. Louis Cardinals think Curt Smith has a pretty special bat. He's been proving it in his first month in the Florida State League.
Smith went 3-for-3 with a homer and a career-high six RBIs on Friday, powering the Palm Beach Cardinals to a 10-3 thumping of the Sarasota Reds.
The 2008 Appalachian League Player of the Year, Smith was hitting .298 with a pair of homers and seven RBIs in his first 12 games of the season. Friday's performance raised his batting average to .340.
"I'm feeling good," he admitted.
Smith was selected by the Cardinals out of the University of Maine in the 39th round of last year's Draft. A native of the Netherlands Antilles, he played in four games for the Dutch team in the World Baseball Classic but failed to get a hit in five at-bats.
The 22-year-old first baseman was hit by a pitch in the first inning from Reds starter Jerry Gil.
"I wasn't mad," Smith said. "It hurt a little, but it wasn't on purpose. It was early in the game and I don't have anything against that team. I knew it wasn't on purpose."
When he reached first, Smith had his eyes on his first stolen base of the season.
"I didn't go right away," he said. "I waited until the third pitch."
Two innings later, Smith lifted a sacrifice fly that got Palm Beach within 3-2.
"It went further than I thought. When I hit it, I didn't think it was going out, but when I looked up and saw the right fielder running back, I thought it had a chance," he said. "I knew I didn't get all of it, but I hit it pretty good."
After an RBI single to left in the fifth, Smith deposited a three-run shot over the left field wall, extending the Cardinals' lead to 7-3.
"That time, I knew. I definitely knew right away," he said. "I made such good contact with it, I could tell it was a home run."
He eclipsed his previous career high of five RBIs with a run-scoring single in the sixth.
Smith hit eight homers in 58 games in 2008, his first season of professional ball. Having already slugged three this season, he's confident his improved selectivity will produce better power numbers.
"I've been much more patient this year," he explained. "Last season, I was a little wild with my swinging. I wasn't waiting for my pitch."
While Smith ranks among the league leaders in all three Triple Crown categories, he admitted there's room for improvement.
"[Being selective is] still something I need to work on," he said. "But I've been much better about picking the right pitches this year."