• Mar

    Chris Smith Saga

    There’s always been a lot of intrigued over what really happened to former Orioles number one pick Chris Smith. Taken with the 7th overall pick in the 2001 draft after Baltimore areas products Mark Teixeira and Gavin Floyd (the O’s preferred picks) were selected, Smith signed almost immediately alluding to a pre draft deal. However, things turned bad quickly when Smith didn’t show up on any rosters right away and it was soon reported that he had a little “soreness.”


    He finally made his professional debut during the last week of the Gulf Coast League season pitching two scoreless innings in two appearances. The next year, despite still being in some discomfort, Smith was assigned to Bluefield where he walked 21 batters while striking out just four in five terrible starts covering 11 innings before being shut down. It was then determined that he needed rotator cuff surgery and he missed his entire 2003 campaign. He pitched only 13.1 innings with Aberdeen in 2004 before starting the 2005 campaign in Delmarva’s bullpen.


    At Delmarva, his ineffectiveness and a lack of velocity, as well as some off the field problems led the Orioles to release him last summer. However, the question has always been, when was he hurt? Some believed he was hurt before he was signed while others believed he was hurt shortly after signing. Smith to his credit was always the organizational trooper, never saying a word about how he was injured publicly, until now.


    Last week I had an e-mail exchange with Smith who is trying to make a comeback with the Oakland A’s organization after pitching in independent ball last year after his release.


    Smith claims he knew exactly when he was hurt.


    “I was injured by the Orioles Athletic trainer Mitch Bibb (rehab guy down in Sarasota). They were doing tests 2 weeks or so into my workouts to get ready to go to Delmarva when he puts too much pressure on a certain motion. That's when I heard a pop and the next day I couldn't throw a ball. From that day on it was tendonitis or shoulder weakness, even went to Dr. Andrews and he didn't see anything so I rehabbed for about a year and a half trying to get back taking there word for what is the matter with me. After that Dr. McFarland at Johns Hopkins found a 90 something percent tear to the rotator cuff.”


    As for being hurt before he was signed, Smith says he was given about five physical exams before signing and passed them all.


    Most of you know Smith as a failed prospect. Another one of the Orioles first round draft picks that didn’t pan out. But Smith explains that being a failed number one draft pick can be emotionally tough.


    “Emotionally, it was very hard for me. I had signed very quick in hopes to make it to the majors quickly with a struggling Orioles pitching squad at the time. Plus there was a pre draft deal made if Teixeira and Floyd were off the board.”


    Even though Smith’s injuries were his main setback, he does admit that he made some mistakes that probably led to his release.


    “The reason they probably released me was because I had a reputation on going out way too much and I was the first rounder who hasn't done anything. So I think all that played a part.”


    Smith says he back to throwing between 90-93 MPH and looks forward to his season this year. Probably the first time in his professional career he can say that.


    Just as a note, the trainer involved is no longer with the organization. The Orioles had no comment on what Smith had to say.


    It’s also worth noting that the Orioles have done a much better job over the last few years keeping players healthy and rehabbing injured ones. Perhaps everyone learned a bit from the Smith Saga.


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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.