After a nearly two-month layoff, Diamondbacks left-hander Caleb Smith will return to the mound Friday with a start against the Mariners, Zach Buchanan of The Athletic reports. It will be Smith’s debut with the D-backs.
Smith was part of the return that Arizona received from the Marlins for outfielder Starling Marte at the Aug. 31 trade deadline, but the hurler was on the shelf at the time because of COVID-19 issues. As a result of those problems, Smith has only pitched once this season, back on July 25.
The 29-year-old Smith broke into the league in earnest with 77 1/3 innings of 4.19 ERA/3.96 FIP ball in 2018. He then piled up 153 1/3 frames and 28 starts a year ago, but after a promising first half, his numbers fell apart as the season progressed. Smith wound up with a 4.52 ERA/5.11 FIP with 3.52 BB/9 and a paltry 26.1 percent groundball rate, but he did fan 9.86 batters per nine – in line with the overall 9.88 K/9 he has posted in the majors.
Now, with the Diamondbacks well out of contention, Smith will get a chance to end the season on a positive note and perhaps lock down a starting spot for 2021. Arizona could certainly use another shoo-in for its rotation going forward, as the current unit ranks just 21st in the majors in ERA and 26th in FIP. Zac Gallen (another former Marlin) has been one of the NL’s best starters, but Madison Bumgarner, Luke Weaver and others have had immense difficulty, and Merrill Kelly isn’t a sure bet to return to the team next year after undergoing thoracic outlet surgery this week.