Mariners seasoning bullpen prospect Smith

Mariners seasoning bullpen prospect Smith

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Carson Smith has never pitched above Class A ball for High Desert, so the young right-hander knows his time with the Mariners is still on the horizon. But that hasn't stopped the tall Texan from making his mark in camp with a strong spring as he joins the growing list of power arms in Seattle's future bullpen mix.

Smith, 23, was the closer for High Desert last year and racked up a 5-1 record with 15 saves and a 2.90 ERA. With a mid-90s fastball and hard slider out of an unorthodox sling-shot delivery from a three-quarters arm angle, the youngster has given up just two hits and two walks over six scoreless Cactus League innings.

He was on the mound for a 1-2-3 ninth inning in Monday's 6-5 victory over the A's, getting the save as he struck out Oakland second baseman Scott Sizemore for the final out. And, yeah, that was a pretty cool moment for the eighth-round Draft pick out of Texas State University.

"I did that a lot last year and it was nice to have the same scenario and situation, while obviously facing a better group of guys," said the 6-foot-6 Smith. "I know the wins and losses aren't as important here in spring, but I took it just like a normal game and went about my business. It was a save opportunity for me and it worked out."

Manager Eric Wedge said there's a purpose behind having a youngster like Smith still on the roster and getting pressure situations.

"That was a great opportunity for him to pitch that ninth inning," Wedge said. "That's something we've been doing with a lot of different guys this spring, to give them that type of experience and that type of exposure in that type of setting. He's been very consistent all camp. He's been very impressive and he was again there.

"You're going to run through multiple pitchers, whether it be in the bullpen and probably even the starting rotation. You hope that's not the case, but that's just the reality of it. The depth we need to have and the ability to watch these guys pitch in these types of games in Spring Training is very important. It's great experience for them and it allows us to see them. Then when they do get the call, they should be that much more comfortable."

Smith figures to open the year at Double-A Jackson, which is where Carter Capps and Steven Pryor were pitching last year when they made their mark. There's no assurance Smith will follow that same fast track, but he's soaking up as much as he can this camp to prepare him for whatever comes next.

"It's going great," he said. "Every day is a blessing. I'm just taking it day by day though. I know I'm a young guy and have a lot of baseball ahead of me. But hopefully I'm trying to make a good impression here and maybe open some eyes and then whatever happens, happens."

As for his unusual delivery, Smith said he used to pitch from two arm slots, one high and one sidearm. In college, he eventually settled on a compromise between the two and tries to stay consistent from that arm slot now with all his pitches. It makes for a tough look for opposing batters, as the lanky Smith comes with a lot of arms and legs and his whipping arm motion.

So far, the Mariners haven't tried to change a thing.

"Honestly, I don't hear much about it," he said. "It's funky, but they don't want to mess with it. Most of the time they've just let me go with it and so far I've been somewhat successful. Unless I start failing, I don't think they'll change it."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.