TEMPE, Ariz.—Nate Smith hoped to use his third big league camp as an opportunity to polish parts of his game that, with improvement, could help the 25-year-old lefthander make that final push to Anaheim.
“I’m really trying to work on my preparation between starts and my mental game,” Smith said. “I want to learn how to read hitters and swings better. I’m talking to guys who have been around, trying to learn how to pitch, developing that aspect of it.”
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Smith, an eighth-round pick out of Furman in 2013, progressed quickly through the system by reaching Double-A Arkansas in 2014 and Triple-A Sale Lake in 2015. In a full Pacific Coast League season last year he went 8-9, 4.61 in 26 starts while striking out 7.3 and walking 2.6 per nine innings.
Smith doesn’t overpower batters with hit 89-90 mph fastball, but the mechanically-sound southpaw has excellent command of a 77 mph changeup with arm-side sink and fade, a biting curveball he can throw in any count and a cutter-slider hybrid he can use to set up other pitches.
“You can ask them questions and they’re always glad to answer, or you just sit there and listen when they’re having conversations and soak it all in,” Smith said.
“They’ve helped me with the preparation aspect. They stress how everything you do matters, whether it’s what you’re eating, sleep habits, what your thoughts are, how focused you are playing catch or going through drills.”
Smith will open the season at Triple-A, but he could be the first pitcher the Angels call up if a starter gets hurt. He probably would have been called up last September if not for a forearm strain he suffered in his last start.
• Lefthander John Lamb, who had surgery to repair a herniated lumbar disk in October, was cleared by a back specialist to begin a throwing program on March 20. Once a top prospect, he signed a minor league deal in November.
• Righthander Aaron Cox, the younger brother of Mike Trout’s fiancée, was hospitalized after being hit in the eye by a ball during drills. Cox, a 19th-round pick in 2015, had a dark bruise around his left eye but is expected to be OK.
— Mike DiGiovanna covers the Angels for the Los Angeles Times