Notes: Smith sees way to playoff roster
Eye surgery helps Colorado rookie outfielder at the plate
PHILADELPHIA -- Rookie outfielder Seth Smith's surprise journey to Wednesday, when the Rockies announced he would be on their roster for the National League Division Series, began with a routine trip to the eye doctor.
Smith, 25, suffered a shoulder injury toward the end of Triple-A Colorado Springs' season and wasn't activated until Sept. 16, when he came off the bench and went 0-for-2 in a 13-0 victory over the Marlins that started the team's 14-1 run that put them in the postseason.
More than a good-luck charm, Smith went 5-for-7 as a pinch-hitter and 5-for-8 overall.
The Rockies drafted Smith out of the University of Mississippi in the second round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, and he batted .300 at Class A Modesto in 2005. But club officials noted he was having trouble tracking balls in the outfield, and he noticed something amiss at the plate.
"I didn't even realize it, but late in the count, I'd have to guess a little bit," Smith said. "I was 20/70 in both eyes, which is certainly functional eyesight in every day life, but in baseball you really need to see the best. It was either LASIK or contacts, and I'd tried contacts before and didn't really like them."
Surgery proved to be the right move. He hit .294 with 15 home runs and 71 RBIs at Double-A Tulsa last year.
This season, Smith hit .317 with 17 home runs and 82 RBIs for Colorado Springs, which sent fellow outfielders Ryan Spilborghs and Cory Sullivan to the Majors while Smith was able to play regularly. The dislocated shoulder, suffered Aug. 29 while diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt, threatened to end his dream of a debut.
The Rockies did not call up Smith on Sept. 1, which in many cases is the cutoff date for postseason eligibility. But when the team placed Aaron Cook on the 60-day disabled list, it was allowed to call up any player in the organization and have him eligible for postseason duty.
"When my shoulder came out, I knew it would be two weeks before I could do baseball stuff and a week before I was ready to play," Smith said. "But I didn't know. I was thankful they kept me around and let me have an opportunity to come back and play, especially in this situation."
Smith surpassed left-handed-hitting prospects Ian Stewart and Joe Koshansky, who weren't placed on the postseason roster.
"Seth Smith, I don't think we can overlook what he's brought to the club off the bench," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "So we put Ian Stewart back in play in the [Arizona] instructional league to swing the bat and hone up that swing if something should happen and he could come back in play.
"Koshansky gave us some good at-bats early, but Seth Smith just jumped to the forefront."
Smith also gives the Rockies two former backups to NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning. First baseman Todd Helton backed up Peyton at Tennessee, and Smith was Eli's understudy at Ole Miss.
Not there yet: Right-handed reliever Jorge Julio, who was left off the playoff roster, winced in pain as he attempted to play catch before Wednesday's game. Julio revealed that he was suffering from pain in the neck area -- pinpointed as his left trapezoid -- after Monday night, when he gave up a Scott Hairston homer that nearly sent the Padres to the NLDS instead of the Rockies.
Hurdle said he wasn't fully aware of how bothered Julio was.
"I didn't hear anything about it until, obviously, later than I'd hope to, but he did speak to the trainers, and they were a little bit aware of it," Hurdle said. "It wasn't anything we thought as out-of-character or normal, but he hasn't gotten better.
"He's disappointed, but he understands the magnitude of what's going on here. I need a healthy Jorge Julio. I don't need a guy at 80 percent. For two months, he was our bridge to our closer. He was integral for two months of the season. He was as big as anybody out there."
Redman gives options: Because right-handed reliever Matt Herges threw 47 pitches in three innings of the NL Wild Card tiebreaker victory over the Padres on Monday, left-hander Mark Redman was available as a long reliever and could start Sunday's Game 4, if necessary. Hurdle said he is considering Redman or right-hander Josh Fogg for that start.
Redman has some positive history against the Phils. He threw five shutout innings out of the bullpen against them at Citizens Bank Park to earn the decision in a 12-0 Rockies victory on Sept. 12.
Nix chosen for Team USA: Rockies Minor League infielder Jayson Nix, who batted .292 with 11 home runs and 58 RBIs at Triple-A Colorado Springs, has been named to the U.S. 24-man roster for the 2007 International Baseball Federation World Cup Nov. 6-18 in Chinese Taipei.
Rockies special front office assistant Marcel Lachemann will be pitching coach for Team USA.
Up next: Left-hander Franklin Morales (3-2, 3.43 ERA) will start for the Rockies in Game 2 against Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick (10-4, 3.87 ERA) on Thursday at 1 p.m. MT.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.