04/11/2002 02:35 am ET
Weary relievers look to Smith
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' bullpen turned in another
heroic effort on Wednesday night, but even heroism is
best taken in moderation. All other things being equal,
St. Louis would much prefer its relievers not have to be
That's where Bud Smith comes in. The second-year
lefty, who was one of the team's best starters last
season, makes his first big-league start of 2002 on
Thursday against the Brewers. He takes the place of
Woody Williams, who is on the disabled list with a
strained left oblique muscle. Coincidentally, it was
Williams' early departure from a game against Houston
last week that elicited the Redbird bullpen's first act of
heroism this year.
Cardinals relievers turned in eight shutout innings on
Wednesday following a second straight rough start
from Andy Benes. On Tuesday, Garrett Stephenson
made it into the seventh inning, but the team still used
five relievers. It's time for Smith to soak up some
innings. If he can.
"My last start in Memphis I felt real good, felt
comfortable," Smith said. "I'm still kind of trying to get
my strength back up. But it's getting there. I'm going
tomorrow so I'm anxious."
Manager Tony La Russa has said he'd love to get a
lengthy outing out of Smith, but he's going to be
cautious with the 22-year old.
"It'd be nice," La Russa said, but "Bud's not somebody
it would be too smart to push."
Smith is still working his way back from a pair of
subpar starts at the end of Spring Training. After
pitching as well as anyone in camp over the first few
weeks, he ran into troubles at the end of March. That,
combined with the fact that Smith was the only
candidate for the St. Louis rotation who had a
minor-league option left, led to a season-opening trip
to Memphis for the man who pitched a no-hitter last
"I felt fine the first three starts, and then the last two, I
just got maybe a little tired, fatigued," Smith said. "And
I just kind of got out of rhythm I think. It all fell apart
the last start. And I went, 'OK, I'm not comfortable.'
And Dunc (Dave Duncan, St. Louis pitching coach) said,
'We're gonna send you to Memphis just to get things
Fortunately for Smith and the Cardinals, it all came
together quickly. In his first start for the Memphis
Redbirds, Smith lasted six innings, allowed two runs on
four hits and struck out 10. He didn't get the win, but
he'd made his point. When Williams went on the DL,
there was no doubt who would get the call.
"I threw six innings down there, did all right, gave up
two runs," Smith said. "I was really working on
mechanics, getting my arm strength back, just getting
comfortable on the mound again."
Of course, it gets a lot tougher when the opponent is
the Milwaukee Brewers instead of the Fresno Grizzlies.
But it's nice to have a guy like Smith to turn to when
your staff needs a lift.
Matthew Leach covers the Cardinals for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major
League Baseball or its clubs.