February 28, 2007

Smith The Next Bradford?

David Lennon at Newsday, writes about Mets right hand pitcher Joe Smith and how he's impressing in Spring Training:

No one got a hit off Smith yesterday, but it's not like he faced the iron of the Mets' lineup. Smith retired Ruben Gotay and Mike Nickeas on ground balls to short to end the abbreviated 2 1/3-inning game, but a better test awaited him in the on-deck circle. That's where Jose Reyes was screaming "Throw it away!" before Anderson Hernandez delivered the finishing flip to first.

With the Mets opening their Grapefruit League schedule today against the Tigers at Tradition Field, now is when the auditions officially begin, and Smith is earning some serious consideration to fill the void left by Chad Bradford. The Mets wanted to re-sign Bradford, another side-arming righthander with a lethal slider, but he bolted when the Orioles offered him a three-year contract worth $10.5 million.

The timing could not be better for Smith, who has a knack for seizing opportunity. Back at Wright State, when Lovelady was soliciting pitchers to adopt a sidearm delivery, it was Smith who volunteered.

"I think they tried out everyone but one person," Smith said. "I just happened to be the guy. As soon as I threw one slider, he told me, 'You're staying that way. "

The Mets would like to replace Bradford with a pitcher of similar style. While he's not a Bradford clone - his predecessor came close to scraping his knuckles on the ground - Smith can "bring the funk," as manager Willie Randolph refers to it.

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