After a four-season minor league career that saw him in six different uniforms, former Aces pitcher Riley Smith was named the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rookie of the year by Baseball America. Just last season, Smith posted a 6.89 ERA in 62.2 innings pitched with Reno. Now, he owns an MLB ERA
After a four-season minor league career that saw him in six different uniforms, former Aces pitcher Riley Smith was named the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rookie of the year by Baseball America. Just last season, Smith posted a 6.89 ERA in 62.2 innings pitched with Reno. Now, he owns an MLB ERA under 1.50.
The start wasn’t perfect, with the rookie long reliever taken yard for a grand slam by Charlie Blackmon in his big league debut. Probably not how he drew it up.
Smith came on in the top of the eighth with no outs and two men on. After a striking out his first batter faced, he gave up a single before the long ball to turn a 4-1 deficit into a deeper 8-1 hole. Smith settled in after, retiring the next two to end the inning before a perfect ninth to wrap up the game. After his major league debut, his ERA sat at a less-than-ideal 9.00.
The momentum from the final five batters kept going for the rest of the season. Smith would give up just one run on 13 hits in the next 16.1 innings across five outings. By the end of the season, that ugly 9.00 ERA was down to just 1.47, and his WHIP was just a hair above one at 1.09. He threw in 18 Ks in just 18.1 innings as well, for good measure.
Smith clearly earned plenty of confidence as a long reliever, finishing five games on the season including a pair of five-inning outings and two wins.
Smith’s first win of the season came against the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Smith inherited a 2-2 tie in the sixth after five innings from Madison Bumgarner, and cruised. Smith held the Dodgers at two runs, striking out four while Arizona picked up three runs to make it 5-2 before handing the ball off to Travis Bergen to close down the ninth.
The second win of the season for Smith came in September when the right hander entered with a 2-0 lead after the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers. In the five innings of relief, Smith fanned seven Rangers and allowed just five hits to keep a zero on the board. The D-Backs would put five more runs up to make it a 7-0 win to put Smith at 2-0 on the season.
Looking to 2021, Smith appears to be primed for another role either as a starter or reliever. “He continues to execute a great game plan,” D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo told Baseball America. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with his progress, his execution and his results.”