Smith Earns Starting Role In Colorado





DENVER—A hugely successful spring training created an opportunity for lefthander Greg Smith to shed the label as the other guy acquired in the Matt Holliday trade.

Smith, 26, opened the season as the Rockies No. 2 starter, replacing Jeff Francis, who began the season on the disabled list.

But when manager Jim Tracy informed Smith of that move three days before the regular season began, he also said Smith would have made the team as a long reliever after going 2-0, 1.50 in 18 spring innings with six walks and 18 strikeouts.

In that event, Smith would have joined Randy Flores as the only other lefthander in the bullpen other than closer Franklin Morales.

"It takes a little bit of weight off my shoulders knowing that I'm not on the team just because somebody got hurt," said Smith, who reported to spring training 17 pounds heavier at 202 after an offseason diet that was high in proteins and included meals every three hours.

Smith went 7-16, 4.16 over 190 innings as a rookie for the Athletics in 2008. The A's averaged 2.88 runs per start for him, the lowest of any pitcher in the last decade, and then packaged Smith with outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and closer Huston Street in the deal for Holliday.

While Gonzalez and Street flourished and helped the Rockies reach the postseason in 2009, Smith languished.

Beginning in spring training, his season was hampered by flu, stomach virus, two staph infections, shoulder tendinitis and back spasms, and Smith pitched just 49 innings with three Rockies farm clubs.

"Mentally, I beat myself up all last year," Smith said. "Other than personally wanting to get out there and play, it was, 'OK, so the Rockies got two guys in a trade and a guy that was hurt all year.'

"The table has turned for me this year and I'm excited."

ROCKY ROADS

• Lefthander Tyler Matzek, the 11th overall pick in the 2009 draft, was expected to join low Class A Asheville after a few weeks in extended spring training. Holding him back to open the season will allow Matzek, 19, to work in warm weather and will limit his innings in his first professional season.

• Lefthanded relievers Tommy Baumgardner, Adam Bright and Xavier Cedeno and outfielder Daniel Carte, all of whom played at Double-A Tulsa last season, were among the players released at the end of spring training. The Rockies selected Carte in the second round of the 2005 draft.