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Smith pitching his way onto Rox roster

Smith pitching his way onto Rox roster

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rockies left-hander Greg Smith might have pitched his way onto the Major League roster.

Before Smith's four scoreless innings in Tuesday's 3-1 victory over the Dodgers to complete his Cactus League play with a 1.80 ERA, he was the sixth starter on a five-man staff. That usually means a trip to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

But after Tuesday's game, Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Smith could open the season on April 5 at Milwaukee as a long reliever and left-handed matchup option.

Earlier in camp, Tracy downplayed Smith as a relief candidate, noting that he didn't pitch in the Majors last season and saw limited Minor League action because of shoulder and back issues. But the desire to field as good a squad as possible out the gate, and the prospect of the Brewers having strong lefty hitters, is leading him to rethink.

"We were at a point at that time when there were several days on the calendar to allow someone to step forward big-time, and up to this point that really hasn't occurred," Tracy said.

Closer Huston Street will begin the year on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury. That means lefty Franklin Morales becomes the primary closer option and Randy Flores is the only lefty setup man.

With left-hander Joe Beimel having not joined the club until signing a Minor League contract last week, Tracy was hoping one of the non-roster veteran right-handers would have stepped into the void. But the best candidate, forkball specialist Justin Speier, who can handle righties and lefties equally, has not blown away the competition, and the Rockies haven't been sold on Tim Redding (who has struggled) and Juan Rincon (who struck out two in a scoreless inning Tuesday).

Enter Smith, who was acquired from the Athletics when the Rockies dealt outfielder Matt Holliday after the 2008 season. Street, who converted 35-of-37 saves last year, and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who has emerged as leadoff man, already have given the Rockies a win in the trade, considering Holliday languished until being dealt to the Cardinals. Smith could make it a sweep.

The big issue is Smith, who pitched 190 1/3 innings for the Athletics as a rookie in 2008, has a total of two pro relief appearances and none since rookie ball in 2005. He also was a reliever his first two years at LSU.

"It's not a totally foreign thing to me," Smith said. "If they put me there, I'll have no problems with it. I'll adjust accordingly, I'll get some information from Morales or Flores or Street, how they go about things.

"If I fit the bill, then so be it. I'll have no problem doing that."

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