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Dwight Smith Jr. Providing 'Big Spark' For Orioles

April 10, 2019
On April 9, Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. sprinted toward the left field corner and made a sliding grab on a liner by Oakland's Khris Davis that would have been unplayable to many outfielders.

The effort underscored Smith's value to the club.

Smith shows up to the park each day and quietly prepares for that game that evening, but that doesn't mean manager Brandon Hyde and his teammates haven't noticed the professionalism he brings to the club.

"Big spark," Hyde said of Smith. "Pro at-bats. Covers the field. Grinds out his ABs against lefties and righties. I love the way he hangs in there and uses the whole field. He just gives you a pro AB and gives himself a chance every time up."

Smith, 26, was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round (No. 53 overall) of the 2011 draft and spent almost eight years in the organization. He made his major league debut May 18, 2017, and he wound up appearing in 12 games that season, hitting .370 (10-for-27) with two doubles.

Last season, he was recalled four different times from Triple-A Buffalo and batted .262 (17-for-65) in 35 games (17 starts) with the big league club. Smith also hit .302 (16-for-53) with two home runs against right-handed pitching.

The Orioles acquired Smith from the Blue Jays in March for international bonus pool slots. He was impressive from the very first day he showed up in Sarasota, Fla., and that has carried over to the regular season.  

"He's off to a really good start," Hyde said. "He ended spring training on a tear. He kept it going in the beginning part of the year. He's going to continue to get playing time here."

Smith provides a stabilizing presence for the Orioles and has been a mainstay in the lineup. He also leads by example to some of the other players.  

"I just go out there and do my work before games -- preparation," Smith said. "I just do what I've always done to get ready for every game."

Smith hit safely in the first eight games of the season, which was the longest streak of his career. Hyde didn't start him for the first time in the series opener against Oakland April 8.

Smith was back in the lineup the following day against the Athletics and went 2-for-4 with a run, raising his average to .286. 

He has been impressed by the way the Orioles have competed so far this season in what is supposed to be the beginning of a complete rebuild of the franchise. 

"Guys are great and everyone is coming out every day and playing hard," Smith said. "We're just giving our best effort. It's showing so far."

Smith put together a solid offseason routine that has clearly paid dividends. He's been less focused on weight training and dedicated more time to becoming flexible and faster. 

"The past two years, I've focused more on speed-agility work," Smith said. "I changed my diet and lost 10 pounds this offseason. I wanted to be more agile. I feel like I can play with more energy."

Cobb, Karns to the IL

Right-handed pitcher Alex Cobb, who was supposed to start April 10, was placed on the 10-day injured list retroactive to April 6 with a lumbar strain. He also began the season on the IL with a right groin strain. 

"He's got some back spasms," Hyde said. "He felt good [April 8]. Then [April 9], he went out and threw and his back tightened up on him a little bit. He had some back spasms, and so we're pushing him back."

In addition, right-handed Nate Karns was placed on the 10-day IL with a right forearm strain. In corresponding moves, righty Evan Phillips and lefty Josh Rogers were recalled from Triple-A Norfolk.

Karns has dealt with injuries throughout the past several seasons, including thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2017. He was shut down by the Royals last spring training with elbow inflammation and never threw an inning in 2018. Karns has started 54 games from 2013-2017, and he doesn't think this latest setback will affect him long term.

"Last year, I couldn't even pitch in a game," Karns said. "This is just a minor setback, which is something we feel like if we squash now it will be better off for us in the long run."

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox