Reds call up Smith to help with bullpen

Reds call up Smith to help with bullpen

CINCINNATI -- Jordan Smith's resume as a reliever is brief, and the numbers haven't been inspiring. Yet symbolic of the Reds' real need for bullpen help, they reached down to Double-A Carolina and gave Smith his first Major League promotion Tuesday.

To make room for Smith, reliever Enerio Del Rosario was optioned to Triple-A Louisville.

Smith made his Major League debut under less than stellar circumstances by entering in the ninth inning of Tuesday's 12-0 blowout loss to the Dodgers. He didn't make matters worse, however, as he pitched a scoreless inning with a two-out double allowed to Russell Martin.

Smith, 24, posted a 1-3 record and 5.08 ERA in 27 games with nine saves for Carolina. He allowed 38 hits over 28 1/3 innings. But the right-hander has a 1.13 ERA over his last six games -- with one earned run allowed over eight innings.

Drafted in 2006, all 74 of Smith's games before this season were as a starting pitcher. He was converted to a bullpen role during Spring Training. Once he improved his pitch selection, the sinkerball-thrower felt like he started clicking on the mound in recent weeks.

"Since I've taken on the reliever role, I had to adjust my game just a little bit -- different pitches at certain times," Smith said. "I was trying to be too aggressive with my fastball at certain points. If you look at my hits, if you were there, probably half of those hits were infield hits and bloop hits that I was kind of getting unlucky. I started getting into a rhythm a couple of weeks ago and kept the ball down real good, and it was moving. I feel better now."

Reds manager Dusty Baker was impressed with Smith during Spring Training. Baker also indicated that Smith's promotion could be the harbinger that more changes are coming to the bullpen.

"We don't know if this is temporary or permanent," Baker said. "It depends on him and depends on how we might revamp our rotation some in order to strengthen our bullpen some. We're still at the drawing board on some of that stuff."

The Reds bullpen came in Tuesday ranked 13th in the National League with a 4.74 ERA. With the exception of lefty Arthur Rhodes, the club has lacked consistent relief help in the seventh and eighth innings. It could put starter Sam LeCure or the currently injured Homer Bailey in the bullpen. With Logan Ondrusek and Del Rosario already summoned from Louisville, there were really no viable options on the 40-man roster to call up. Jared Burton missed the early part of the season on the disabled list and has struggled lately. Bats starters like Travis Wood and Matt Maloney have little to no experience as relievers.

Baker would not say what considerations were on the table.

"I can't tell you that. We'll see," he said. "Some depends on how Smith fits in. Most of the pitchers are going six and a fraction [innings]. That seventh inning, it's so very important. We're looking for somebody to close that gap there. Ondrusek has done a good job closing the gap, but he can't do it by himself. We're still in the fact-finding mode. You wish you'd have everything perfectly in order but it's not."