Just a month into the 2021 MLB season, the Arizona Diamondbacks have already had their fair share of players land on the injured list.
The outfield has been hit particularly hard as both Ketel Marte and Tim Locastro are sidelined by injuries.
That is where first baseman and outfielder Pavin Smith comes into play.
Despite never having played centerfield in his professional career until this season, Smith has transitioned from first base to center and is progressing rather quickly.
“I don’t think I ever even played it when I was in Little League,” Smith told reporters. “So when Tim got hurt the other day and Torey (Lovullo) called my number, it was like, ‘Okay, here we go’.”
In his first full season with the Diamondbacks, the first baseman is excited for the new opportunity at center.
“He’s going to continue to get better and better,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “I watched (Smith) through the course of BP yesterday. And he’s working at it. He’s working at it every single day.”
Lovullo told reporters on Saturday that Smith saw his first action in center field during spring ball last season.
“That’s where we all started to make our evaluations on (Smith) as somebody that was very capable of playing the corners,” Lovullo said. “Then we kind of migrated through spring training, we were getting some more input. And David McKay was giving us a good feel for what he was seeing.”
During the 2020 season, Smith saw some action in the major leagues for Arizona as a September call-up. In 12 appearances, he collected 10 hits, good for a .270 batting average.
“Last year helped a lot,” he said. “The experience of it (helped) me feel more comfortable and ready to go this year.”
Smith was initially a bit anxious when called upon to start in center field on April 17, but as this first appearance went on he gained more confidence.
“It was definitely different and I knew that I’ve taken balls off the bat in BP in centerfield,” Smith told reporters. “I knew I could do it. It was just a matter of the unknown of how the ball is gonna play in the game. But once you get that first one under your belt, the first fly ball, it’s not as hard as I psyched myself up for it to be.”
The 25-year-old has shown similar versatility in the lineup, where he has led off in five games but also has frequent at bats in the fifth and sixth spots in the lineup. No matter his spot in the lineup, he said he maintains the same style at the plate.
“My approach doesn’t change swinging at my pitches,” he said. “Trying not to expand the zone doesn’t change when I’m in the leadoff spot or down the order.”
On Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds, Smith put his full versatility on full display as he started the game in center field, shifted to first base and eventually closed the extra-inning game in right field.
This skill set will continue to come in handy as the D-backs progress through the season.