In the early morning hours of Sunday, the Toronto Blue Jays reached terms with Joe Smith a veteran reliever.
Smith is a side-arm right-hander who has a reputation for having one of the game’s most unique pitching deliveries. While a rookie with the New York Mets he said he had learned to pitch sidearm after studying tapes of Chad Bradford a former Met.
He became a sidearm thrower fulltime during 2004 while he was pitching at Wright State as a walk on. Greg Lovelady his coach at the D1 school only needed to watch Smith throw a few pitches to declare him the team’s closer.
Smith said the side-arm style helped his velocity so it worked out well for him.
In an article back in 2015, Chris Iannetta the then Angels catcher and a teammate at the time of Smith, said the pitcher was far easier to catch than hit. Iannetta called Smith’s style of throwing side arm a boomerang.
Smith will be 33 prior to the start of the upcoming 2017 season and during 2016, his sinker averaged 88.4 mph.
However, the real strength Smith has is how deceiving he is to batters that cause many to make weak contact.
It is expected that Smith will fit into the Toronto bullpen as one of its middle relievers. As a closer, his experience is limited as he has just 18 saves during 9 seasons in the majors, but that is fine with Toronto. He should fit in alongside another newcomer to the team J.P. Howell, giving space between starters and Roberto Osuna.
This signing still leaves the Toronto bullpen with two spots to fight for during upcoming spring training. Smith was a teammate of Jason Grilli a right-hander while with the Angels.
Smith is considered a veteran who likes to help teach the younger players, which is something that Grilli was credited with bringing to Toronto last season when the team acquired him.
Next season is Smith’s 10th in the majors with much of that spent with the defending American League pennant winners the Cleveland Indians.
After a pair of seasons with the Mets, he was traded in 2008 to Cleveland. He pitched five seasons with Cleveland with his best season in 2011 as he posted an ERA of 2.01 while working 67 innings.
The same season he allowed just one homer and 15 earned runs.
Smith then signed a free agent deal in 2014 with the Angels and in his first season there ended with an ERA of 1.81 and 68 strikeouts, with both being career highs.