Mariners’ Drew Smyly excited to see how his style works in Safeco Field
Drew Smyly knew he was likely to be put on the trading block by Tampa Bay this offseason, and he knew the Mariners were looking for some more reliable starting pitching. The 27-year-old left-hander was intrigued about the prospect, but when Seattle traded for Yovani Gallardo on Jan. 6, that thought went out the window.
The window wasn’t closed, however.
The Mariners, as it turned out, wanted yet another strong rotation piece, so five days later they pulled off a few more moves to bring Smyly to town. He’s happy with the outcome, even if he had to wait a little bit longer to get to Seattle.
“When they traded for Gallardo I actually was like, ‘Oh, I guess I’m not gonna get to go to Seattle.’ And then (five days) later I did. I was excited to be here,” Smyly said at the Mariners’ annual FanFest last weekend. “It’s always been one of my favorite places to play. The city, always loved coming here since my rookie year, so I was really excited when I finally got the call.”
Smyly isn’t just glad to be in Seattle. As a fly ball pitcher who gave up the fifth-most home runs in all of the MLB last year (32), he’s glad for the opportunity to pitch his home games at spacious Safeco Field.
“Obviously I had a little trouble with the home run ball last season, but hopefully this year a few of them don’t go out and it makes a big difference,” he said. “Maybe Safeco will help a bit, and that could change a lot. I mean, one or two pitches can change the outcome of a game.”
Smyly’s pitching style and how it will play at Safeco was something that led general manager Jerry Dipoto to go after him, especially considering the Mariners’ new emphasis on speed and athleticism in the outfield. That was encouraging to Smyly, as well.
“That’s one of the first things Jerry told me when I got the call was we’re gonna have a great defense. ‘We think this ballpark is built for a pitcher like yourself,’ and that’s exciting to hear,” Smyly said.
A change of scenery is unlikely to fix everything for Smyly, though, and he’s well aware that he’ll need to do more to get his ERA back down under 4 after posting a 4.88 mark in 2016. The good news is that over his last 12 starts, he had a 3.73 ERA and held opposing batters to a .230 average. He said he struggled with his off-speed pitches in 2016, but that he started to regain his command beginning with a 12-strikeout performance against Seattle of all teams.
“I think in the middle of the season I had a rough stretch with my off-speed pitches. Just kinda lost the feel for it a little bit, and when you limit what pitches you could throw up there, it always makes it harder on yourself,” Smyly said. “I rely a lot on my curveball and I kinda lost it for a few starts, and that was a big part of it. I remember, too, I feel like when I finally got it back, I was facing Seattle in Tampa. That was one of my better games of the season.
“For me, you gotta mix speeds. I’m constantly trying to keep the hitter guessing. I know I can throw strikes, I know I’m not gonna walk guys. But it’s just commanding the ball and find the strike zone, throwing quality strikes, changing speeds and keeping the hitter off balance. That’s the biggest key.”