On March 8, outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. got traded from the Blue Jays to the Orioles for international bonus money. He was about to leave the only organization he knew. The one that drafted him 53rd overall in 2011.
He had played over 700 games in seven seasons on the Blue Jays’ farm and briefly in the majors for Toronto in 2017 and 2018. And now he wondered how it would all turn out upon being traded.
“I was just thinking, ‘What’s next?’ ” he recalled yesterday in the O’s clubhouse. “I just wanted to stay ready. Had to get ready for the season no matter where I would go. But I had some of those thoughts after the trade. I was so used to playing with one team. It was all a new experience.
“It turned out to be the best thing that happened to me in my career,” he said.
That was because the Orioles gave him a real shot in the majors this year. Over parts of 2017-18 he got a combined 104 plate appearances with Toronto. This season he has gotten 375 with the Orioles. That number would probably be higher if not for two injuries.
“It’s been awesome,” Smith said about his time with the Orioles. “Just getting an opportunity with Baltimore after getting traded from Toronto. It’s everything I could ask for. Just getting a chance to be at the major league level every day is priceless.
“I’ve learned that I’m capable of a lot more now at the major league level. It’s a lot to take in playing in the majors. Major league pitchers don’t give in. They compete hard every day.”
Smith got off to a hot start with his team. Through May 12, the 26-year-old lefty hitter was batting .286/.333/.510 with an OPS of .844.
For the season overall in 96 games, Smith is batting .240/.294/.409 with a .703 OPS.
“Early in the season I was getting pitched differently than now,” said Smith. “But you have to keep making adjustments. Before they were just trying to see what I could do and I got more fastballs. Now I’m seeing more of a mix depending on the situation. I’ve seen just about everything each pitcher has and a lot of different pitch mixes. Feel like I’ve gotten comfortable waiting pitchers out and getting the pitch I want to hit. That has been something to really learn this year.”
Smith’s season got derailed a bit by injuries. He crashed into the outfield wall in Texas and missed two weeks on the concussion injury list. He suffered a left calf strain and went on the IL on July 30 and didn’t return to the O’s roster until Sept. 1.
“It was frustrating. Injuries did mess up timing for me. But at the end of the day I’ve learned a lot this year. Just get healthy and be ready for next year for sure,” he said.
Smith loves being part of this young O’s team but is aware the outfield is getting crowded and the competition is there for roster spots and playing time.
“That is true around the league. Everybody has talent. I am just trying to win,” he said.
About last night: The Orioles could not hold a 4-3 lead after seven innings Tuesday night and a 7-1 lead after four last night. They could not hold a 9-5 lead in the ninth last night, losing 11-10 to Toronto.
Back-to-back brutal losses, one worse than the night before.
The O’s bullpen allowed 18 hits and 15 runs (13 earned) in nine innings in this series. They allowed 10 runs in the ninth inning in the series. They scored 10 runs and lost. That was a first in 2019 as they had been 7-0 when scoring 10 or more.
Toronto is now 3-79 when trailing after eight innings and the O’s are 47-6 when leading after eight.
Randal Grichuk’s two-out grand slam in the ninth gave Toronto a 10-9 lead which they would expand to 11-9. Grichuk is the third American League player in the last 40 years to hit a slam on the road with his team down by three with two outs in the ninth. All three were Blue Jays: Dave Winfield on May 7, 1992 at Seattle and Justin Smoak on Aug. 31, 2018 at Miami and Grichuk last night.