03/30/07 10:00 PM ET
Notes: Smith readies for big show
Inexperienced reliever will be in bullpen on Opening Night
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
When Joe Smith cut across the clubhouse though, his jeans -- apparently the un-nice variety -- prompted comment and inspection by the clubhouse clothes police. Pedro Feliciano pointed out a tear in the thigh to playfully-offended Carlos Beltran. Other's just shook their heads, prompting Smith to offer a three-word defense.
"I didn't know," he said.
What he did know, or what he anticipated anyway, was that finer dress might be required of him at some point in April. So when Smith packed for Spring Training, he brought a suit.
He wasn't that presumptuous, but now he is that prepared for what lies ahead.
As of Thursday, Smith is a big leaguer. All dressed up -- at least potentially -- with someplace go. St. Pete on Saturday, St. Louis on Sunday.
His high-speed evolution from February curiosity to Made Man in March is complete. The Mets bullpen will include a right-handed 23-year-old whose pitches come 8:30 on a non-digital clock and touch 93 mph on the guns. Smith was told he'd go north and not to speak publicly about it on Thursday morning.
Equipment manager Charlie Samuels escorted Smith to Randolph's office under the guise of needing him to try on a uniform. What Smith tried instead was the idea of making the team out of Spring Training with a modicum of professional experience.
"I know you don't see too many guys with 2 1/2 months [experience] going to the big leagues," Smith said.
Researching it is essentially impossible, but people with long institutional memories recall no player in club history reaching the big-league team with so little professional experience -- 47 innings as a professional -- 14 1/3 of them this spring.
Smith's public silence broke Friday morning after he awoke from a trainer's room snooze. And not once did he pinch himself. It was all quite real to him.
He had begun to suspect big-league status was in the offing when his bullpen comrades -- Feliciano, Billy Wagner and Scott Schoeneweis -- began offering advice and his pitching assignments seemed more like tests than opportunities to "get his work in."
Their overall reaction was quite encouraging for the Mets. Smith produced a 1.26 ERA in 12 appearances. He allowed 16 base runners -- four of them hit batsmen -- and struck out 17 in his 14 1/3 innings. Unlike most right-handed pitchers whose release point is similar, he handled left-handed hitters for the most part.
"I know the regular season can be different," said Smith. "Guys will be geared up, but it's gone OK so far. They tell me I'll be nervous my first time out. I told them I'll be all right. They said, 'No, you'll be nervous.'"
But nerves in St. Louis are preferable to calm in New Orleans.
A good spring and a good guess: The Mets fussed about Lastings Milledge's injury. They wanted to know how quickly his right hand, bruised from a pitch last Sunday, might recover. Could he hold a bat? Could he swing? Could he throw?
They fussed, and Milledge took that as a sign he had a chance to make the big-league roster out of Spring Training. He doubted they would inquire so often if he were headed to Triple-A. The indication turned to fact on Friday.
The Mets final four -- Milledge, Ambiorix Burgos, Chan Ho Park and Jon Adkins -- was reduced to two when Park was optioned and Adkins outrighted.
Paternal rights: From the boxscore from the Mets game Friday --"Outfield assists: Ross (Newhan at home)."
Marlins outfielder Cody Ross had thrown out David Newhan at the plate.
"Ross (Newhan)" is the father of David, a former baseball writer for the Los Angeles Times and winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, i.e., Hall of Famer writer.
Alerted to the box score quirk Friday, Ross Newhan sent this e-mail.
"The best was a Baltimore game in Boston a couple years ago when they had me in the starting lineup on the pregame sheets."
His son was playing for the Orioles.
Up next: Mike Pelfrey makes his final start with the Mets until April 13 against the Devil Rays at Tropicana Field on St. Petersburg at 1:05 p.m. ET. The Rays' starter will be James Shields.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.