Riley Smith Owes Development To An Injury
For righthander Riley Smith, an arm injury from three years ago turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Smith’s velocity dropped after a bout with biceps tendinitis during his junior year at Louisiana State, forcing him to focus more on locating pitches and developing his secondary stuff.
Now that his fastball is back to its previous levels, Smith believes he has been able to marry power stuff with pitchability. It’s hard to argue with the results. Through 13 starts with Double-A Jackson, Smith recorded a 2.27 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 16 walks in 71.1 innings. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Reno.
"I kind of learned how to use my secondary pitches and how to pitch backwards, and as I got my velo back, it helped me a ton,” Smith said. "Now I have three offspeed pitches I use frequently and now my velo is back. It’s starting to click for me.”
Smith, a 24th-round pick in 2016, said he would touch 97 mph in college, but that dipped to 88-92 after his injury. His velocity remained down even into pro ball. That was partly mental and partly by design, in that he was more interested in locating than overpowering.
But he credited Diamondbacks pitching coaches Jeff Bajenaru and Dan Carlson for getting him to use his lower half more and pitch with more "aggression,” he said, which has helped his stuff tick back up. He routinely touches 96 mph and sits 93.
He said he had trouble last year "(finding) that line between throwing hard and pitching,” but he thinks something clicked in the second half that has carried over.
"If you can throw a fastball that’s above-average, it helps with everything else,” Smith said. "Guys don’t want to miss the heater and it opens the other pitches up to have a better presentation.”
Smith said he’s always had a decent changeup, but he thinks his slider has improved to the point it is sometimes his best secondary offering.
In an organization that has seen its starting pitching depth severely tested this year, Smith has emerged as a dark horse option. If the club continues searching for answers, he might not be too far away from getting the call.
— Triple-A Reno righthander Kevin Ginkel, one of the organization’s top relief prospects, hasn’t pitched since late May due to elbow inflammation. The issue is not considered serious, but it likely will knock him out of action for at least six weeks. Farm director Mike Bell said the club is pointing toward a return in the second week of July.
— After hitting under .200 in each of the first two months of the season, Double-A shortstop Jazz Chisholm was hitting .254 through the first 20 games of June. He had 15 homers and 94 strikeouts (in 229 at-bats), both of which ranked second in the Southern League.