SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP)Drew Smyly was excited to pitch against several Los Angeles Angels stars on Saturday.
”It’s a really good lineup. You want to face those guys, so that you can get better, regardless of the outcome. Seeing them in the lineup, that’s good quality work,” the San Francisco Giants lefty said after he pitched two scoreless innings.
After giving up a scratch hit to leadoff man David Fletcher, Smyly struck out Mike Trout, retired Anthony Rendon on a flyball and fanned Justin Upton to end the first inning. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the second, throwing 31 pitches, 19 for strikes.
Saturday’s stint followed up a scoreless outing on Monday against Arizona.
”My fastball was pretty good today. I could tell by some of their swings,” Smyly said. ”I’m excited where I’m at right now.”
Both strikeouts were called and came on 80-mph curveballs. Trout’s was on a full count.
”It seems like I end up facing Trout a lot,” said Smyly, who until last year pitched entirely in the American League. ”No doubt he’s the best hitter in the game.
”You look forward to those battles. He’s got me lots of times,” he said.
In 18 career at-bats against Smyly, Trout has five hits – two home runs and three doubles.
After Smyly left, the Angels teed off for an eight-run third inning, including homers by Jason Castro and Matt Thaiss.
Smyly, 30, missed all of 2017 and 2018 after having Tommy John surgery. He returned last season with Texas, but was 1-5 with an 8.42 ERA in nine starts before the Rangers released him. Milwaukee signed him, but also let him go after he made three starts in the minors.
He landed with the pitching-starved Phillies, and it was there that Smyly began to figure out some things. He was 3-2 with a 4.45 ERA in 12 starts for Philadelphia, cutting his walks per nine innings from six in Texas to three.
Smyly is trying to get back to being the pitcher he was before injuries. In his first four seasons, with the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays, he was 24-15 with a 3.24 ERA. Since 2016, his ERA is 5.41.
Now, he says he’s able to focus on pitching again.
”My body feels way better, my arm feels stronger,” Smyly said. ”Last year I was healthy, but I hadn’t pitched in two years, so there were a lot of cobwebs to shake off.
”It took me a long time to get my command back. I feel way stronger, looser, my arm action feels better. So it’s more about getting that consistency with my off-speed pitches versus trying to build my arm strength.”
His manager with the Phillies, Gabe Kapler, is now in that role with the Giants.
”Drew came out of the game with a lot of confidence,” Kapler said. ”I was able to see him make a lot of starts. He had some ups and downs but his last start of the season he faced the Nationals. He was able to buzz through that lineup (10 strikeouts and no walks).
”We’ve seen this type of Drew Smyly before. This was exactly what you’d expect, and I think what’s happening now is Drew is expecting that out of himself. It’s been really nice to see the fire that he brings every day.”
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