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D-backs Game Preview, #9: 4/17 vs. Mets

Today’s game will be started by #NotCalebSmith

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

DIAMONDBACKS METS
Cooper Hummel - LF Jeff McNeil - LF
Ketel Marte - 2B Starling Marte - RF
Carson Kelly - DH Francisco Lindor - SS
Christian Walker - 1B Pete Alonso - DH
Pavin Smith - RF Eduardo Escobar - 3B
Daulton Varsho - C Dominic Smith - 1B
Yonny Hernandez - 3B Travis Jankowski - CF
Jake McCarthy - CF James McCann - C
Geraldo Perdomo - SS Luis Guillorme - 2B
H. Castellanos - RHP David Peterson - LHP

So, for the second season in a row, Caleb Smith’s presence in the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day rotation lasted exactly one start. If you recall, the same thing happened in 2021, when he made one appearance before being bumped for Riley Smith. That was actually a bit of a better start for Caleb, as he went three innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and three walks. This time, he was one and done: after a clean first inning, he faced six batters in the second and didn’t retire any of them. It may not be the end of Smith as a starter for the Diamondbacks. Last year, he eventually made his way back into the rotation, and finished with 13 starts, the same as Luke Weaver and Taylor Widener.

However, Smith's first bullpen outing wasn’t exactly a sterling success either. On Friday night, he allowed five runs over three innings, on five hits and three walks. Though that did still lower his ERA from 36,00 to 20.25. But there have simply been way too many hits, walks and home-runs for him. Right now, I wouldn’t trust C. Smith in anything except the moppiest of mop-up duty. It’s no shock he ended up a casualty this morning, not even making it to the start of next month when two pitchers need to be cut. For now, he could add to the eighteen previous players in franchise history who made one start in a season.

Interesting to look at previous names. Some were limited to one start by injury. Some blew themselves out in that solitary game - the most obvious example is the sad one of Brandon Webb, but so did Shane Reynolds. Others like Taijuan Walker came back at the end of the year, for a token outing. Some were simply terrible. Kris Medlen was cut immediately after his 4 IP, 7 ER outing, retiring from baseball the same month. Others were regular relievers pushed into spot starts. Who can forget T.J. McFarland in 2017? Reliever ERA: 4.19 across 42 games. Starter ERA: 108.00, after allowing seven ER while retiring ONE batter. See also Oscar Villarreal, who found time to make a start among his 85 relief appearances in 2003.

But most of them weren’t very good starts. Of the nineteen including C. Smith, only five had an ERA in their game below 4.50. The best was by Jarrod Parker, who threw 5.2 scoreless innings in his major-league debut, on the penultimate day of the 2011 season. He was dealt to Oakland that winter and had two solid seasons before his MLB career was ended by some horrific injuries, including a second Tommy John procedure and an elbow fractured in throwing a pitch. Hopefully, absolutely nothing like that is in Caleb’s future, though a return to starting now requires getting back onto the 26-man roster first. With as many home runs allowed as innings pitched, even that won't be easy.