Notes: Smith advertising himself
Reliever hoping to impress Phillies, earn bigger role in '07
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Matt Smith learned the art of selling, slogans and product placement while an advertising major at Oklahoma State.When it came to selling himself, that happened last September, while the Phillies were in the thick of a late-season playoff push. Having arrived in the organization more than a month earlier with three others in the trade that sent Bobby Abreu to the Yankees, the southpaw was battling for opportunities with fellow lefties Arthur Rhodes, Aaron Fultz, Eude Brito and Fabio Castro. Then, on Labor Day at Citizens Bank Park, Smith entered with one out and a runner on first against the Astros. A stolen base moved the runner to second, but Smith retired Lance Berkman on a grounder and fanned Mike Lamb, eliciting cheers from 44,674 fans. Though he had already made a handful of big-league appearances, "that was my first welcome to the big leagues experience," Smith said. "I was prepared, but wasn't expecting to go in there. A sold-out crowd, the adrenaline was pumping. That was what I had been waiting for my whole life." Success there -- combined with Rhodes' ineffectiveness and eventual season-ending injury and manager Charlie Manuel's lack of trust in the other three in key spots -- caused Smith's stock to rise, and he quickly became the club's No. 1 left-handed option out of the 'pen. In other words, Smith got Manuel to buy what he was selling. "I'm a big believer that you only get so many opportunities in this game," said Smith, who worked a scoreless inning in Saturday's 12-9 Grapefruit League win against the Red Sox. "Last September was probably that defining moment in my career. It was either stay up there or find something else to do. I appreciated the fact that Charlie had confidence in me and threw me out in the fire. That's what you prepare for. It was exciting last year. I learned a lot in a lot of pressure situations." The Phillies didn't acquire a lefty this offseason, and Fultz and Rhodes left via free agency, seemingly guaranteeing the 27-year-old a spot in the bullpen, not that Smith sees it that way. Smith, despite growing up in Las Vegas, won't gamble on his future. His mentality stays the same. "It's nice to hear good things [about my chances], but I can't look at it that way." Smith said. "I have to make it impossible for them to change their mind."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.