SAN FRANCISCO -- Fourteen months after he returned from Tommy John surgery, Will Smith is headed to his first All-Star Game.
It's been a rough first half for the Giants and none of their position players even came close to getting All-Star consideration. Smith, however, has long been a lock to take the field in Cleveland on July 9. By any measure, he has been one of the best relievers in the Majors.
Smith entered selection day with a 2.16 ERA and 0.81 WHIP, and he’s a perfect 21 for 21 in save opportunities. His rate of 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings is the highest of his career and he’s holding opposing hitters to a .494 OPS, the fourth-lowest in the NL.
Smith, 29, had elbow reconstruction surgery in 2017 and missed the entire season. He returned on schedule last May 2, and by the end of June he had pitched so well that he moved up to the ninth inning. Smith has handled the closer role with ease. His 21 consecutive saves to start the season are the most by a Giant since Rod Beck converted 28 straight in 1994.
"Once he got back and we looked at our situation, we thought he had the equipment to close," manager Bruce Bochy said recently. "He throws hard, he's got a couple of breaking balls and he has a changeup. And he has good command of them ... I like the way Smitty's handled it. He has brought so much stability to the bullpen and been so consistent out there.”
The All-Star nod comes at an odd time for Smith and the Giants. He was acquired in 2016 to be part of multiple contenders but instead finds himself as perhaps the best trade chip in baseball as a struggling organization looks to get help for future rosters. Smith said recently that the trade rumors do not bother him.
"You hate leaving, and for three years you've built relationships, but we all realize it's part of the game, that it's part of the business," he said. "I think once you've been traded once you kind of know how it goes, you know what to expect, you know you're not in trouble and you're going to a team that wants you, that really, really wants you.
"They're willing to give away good players for you. It's kind of a cool feeling, I guess."