JUPITER, Fla.—Caleb Smith made a triumphant return to the mound for the Marlins in their 4-1 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday. Working in relief of José Ureña, the 27-year-old lefty earned the win with four perfect innings, striking out six batters along the way.
Smith showed promise last season, posting a 4.19 ERA and rotation-leading 10.2 K/9 in 77.1 IP.
Unfortunately for Smith and the Marlins, it all came to an abrupt end in Colorado last June. He had to exit the start early and an MRI revealed a Grade 3 lat strain, ending his season.
If you were one of the 4,534 people in attendance at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, you never could have guessed that this was Smith’s first game appearance in the eight-and-a-half months since then. After throwing two consecutive balls out of the ‘pen, he proceeded to strike out the side on 12 pitches, finishing off his sixth-inning opponents with a changeup, curveball, and fastball, respectively. His fastball averaged 94 MPH, and peaked at 95.
Even Smith himself admitted he had jitters going into the afternoon:
“It was awesome — you can’t draw it up any better than that. Actually, I was super nervous going into it.”#Marlins LHP Caleb Smith discusses today’s stellar outing in return to the field. pic.twitter.com/KvTwXKYjBa— Wells Dusenbury (@DuseReport) March 13, 2019
“It was awesome. You can’t draw it up any better than that. Actually I was super nervous going into it. Probably more nervous than when I made my [regular season] debut.”
“Really, I don’t know if you can expect anything better than that, his first time out,” Don Mattingly said.
Smith had already been throwing simulated games earlier in Spring Training and continues to gradually build up his workload. Mattingly said he will probably be throwing five innings and 75 pitches in his next outing.
Meanwhile, Ureña was effective as well. Despite getting into trouble early with runners on second and third in the opening frame, the right-hander allowed just one earned run overall and collected three strikeouts in four-plus innings. His defense did help him out a little bit. Lewis Brinson gunned down former Marlins Marcell Ozuna at third base for the final out of the fourth.
Peter O’Brien had a double off the left-field wall to drive in the first run of the game after going 1-for-9 in his previous three games. Deven Marrero’s two-run homer in the eighth gave Smith a comfortable lead to work with in closing out game.
The Marlins (9-10) travel to West Palm Beach to face the Houston Astros (9-9) tomorrow. First pitch is at 1:05 p.m.