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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 11, 2017 9:00 pm

Smith's demotion from TinCaps aimed at getting him regular work

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

The idea behind Austin Smith going down to short-season Tri-City is for him to pitch more frequently out of the bullpen as opposed to the longer, but more irregular, outings Smith would get with the TinCaps.

The San Diego Padres selected Smith in the second round of the 2015 amateur draft. He was once ranked among the top 10 prospects in their farm system, and he had pitched in 25 games for low-A Fort Wayne in 2016 and 11 more this year.

For those reasons, Saturday's demotion of Smith, recently shifted to relief after continued struggles as a starter, was noteworthy.

Fort Wayne manager Anthony Contreras said Smith would remain in the bullpen with Tri-City, which has its season opener Thursday, but that the Padres have a specific plan in mind with sending the 20-year-old right-hander to the Dust Devils.

"It's a way to get him more consistent work," Contreras said. "There, the roster size expands to 35. Here, depending on how our games go, he's might pitch four innings, and then he's down for another five (days) so he pretty much is a starter."

Smith is 6-9 with a 5.68 ERA in 36 career appearances with Fort Wayne.

"(Tri-City) can kind of situate it to where he will pitch every third day and kind of get him more consistent work," Contreras said. "Hopefully he gets his groove and confidence back so he is able to come back and join this team."

Contreras insisted Smith remains upbeat about his midseason departure from the TinCaps.

"He understands," Contreras said. "You have to be real with yourself and self-evaluate and understand where you are and what the team is doing and what everybody else around him is doing. If you think, 'Oh, this is what it takes,' then you're kind of mistaken. You have to be able to readjust and make some adjustments. This is not like a demotion to the point where it's a punishment.

"It's more to refine some things and come back here ready to go."