Kevan Smith walked into the White Sox clubhouse on Sunday looking both exhausted and elated, the kind of combination that comes with a player’s first call-up to the major leagues.
The 27-year-old Smith was told Saturday night he was being brought to The Show thanks to Alex Avila’s balky hamstring. Since about 7 or 8 p.m. last night, his phone was going off non-stop with congratulatory text messages and calls. Around 1 a.m., he shut it off, since he needed to get some rest before an early-morning flight from Toledo (where Triple-A Charlotte was playing) to Chicago.
“No big deal,” Smith said. “I’ll catch up on sleep when we get to Toronto.”
Smith had to borrow Triple-A teammate Travis Ishikawa’s suit on short notice, since he didn’t bring one with him and the White Sox depart for a road trip to Toronto and Baltimore this week. It’s been a wild last 24 hours for the Pittsburgh native, who’s spent the last four seasons slowly working up the rungs of the White Sox organizational ladder.
Smith played in 476 minor-league games and comes to the major leagues with a .290/.367/.454 slash line, and was 10-for-29 with two home runs in Charlotte this season. He’ll back up Dioner Navarro with the White Sox until Avila, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday, is ready to return.
“It's just a good opportunity for him,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He's been doing well down there. You kind of trust what our guys are seeing down there. It's a nice opportunity. He won't get as much playing time as Dio but he's going to be playing.”
Smith worked tirelessly to improve as a catcher and shake off old habits from his days as a backup quarterback for Dave Wannstedt’s Pitt Panthers. He feels more confident in his receiving skills, which he feels will allow pitchers to trust him once he gets in a game.
While Navarro will get most of the time behind the plate during Avila’s absence, at some point, Smith will get to make his major league debut. For now, though, the realization that he’s in the majors is still sinking in.
“It’s still an emotional roller coaster right now,” Smith said. “I’m talking to buddies that I played (with) back in rookie ball and A-ball, and they’re like, this isn’t Kannapolis anymore, just making little jokes and stuff like that. It’s just kind of a dream becoming reality and I’m trying to soak everything in today and just get my bearings.”