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Murphy Smith finishes strong pro season at Double-A
Former BU ace was all-star in 2012, is rising rapidly in Oakland's farm system
October 1, 2012Tweet
Contact: John Hartrick (firstname.lastname@example.org)
VESTAL, N.Y.—Murphy Smith joined more than 40 alumni on September 15 in celebrating and christening Binghamton’s new baseball complex on campus. The Bearcats’ former pitching ace was impressed with the state-of-the-art facility but the same compliments could be bestowed upon Smith, who four years into a professional career, has impressed many by becoming a Double-A all-star.
Smith pitched three years for Binghamton (2007-09), helping lead the program to three straight America East regular season titles and its first-ever NCAA tournament berth in 2009. As the team’s ace in 2009, the 6-foot-3 righty led the conference in wins (7), strikeouts (84) and ERA (3.12) and postseason accolades included America East Pitcher of the Year, ECAC Pitcher of the Year and ABCA first team All-Northeast region. In three seasons for BU, Smith totaled 13 wins and held a 3.89 career ERA.
After being selected in the 13th round of the MLB Draft that June, Smith began his pro career with the Athletics’ Rookie League team in Phoenix. He quickly earned a promotion to the organization’s short season Class A team in Vancouver and after one start, was moved up to its Class A team, Kane County, in Geneva, Ill.
Smith split the 2010 season between Kane and Oakland’s High Class A team in Stockton (Calif.) and went 11-7 with a 4.49 ERA. In 2011, he dropped that ERA to 3.94 and pitched 137 innings for Stockton.
This past summer, Smith was promoted to Midland (Texas), the A’s Double-A affiliate. There, he ranked second on the team in wins (6), third in ERA (4.82) and WHIP (1.63) and fourth in strikeouts (83 in 140 IP). In June, Smith was selected to represent Midland in the Texas League All-Star Game in Tulsa, an honor he cherishes.
“The all-star game was a blast and it was quite a sight to see and play with the talent that was on that field,” he said. “Some of those guys are already in the big leagues and many of them have bright futures.”
Some folks might say the same about Smith.
“Murphy is a student of the game and carries the necessary ingredients to eventually ascend to a major league diamond,” said Billy Owens, Oakland’s director of player personnel. “How Murphy continues to apply the knowledge he’s accumulated on our minor league fields, will be essential for him to realize his goals.”
Smith is both humble about his early success and candid about his need to continue improving.
“Overall this season I feel like I made strides in terms of my development,” he said. “My pitching coach and I worked all year on tightening up my curve ball and I felt like I did a good job of that by the end of the season. The main thing I need to improve on is being more consistent. I have put together good games and now I just have to repeat those performances more often.”
That strategy was echoed by former big-league pitcher and Oakland Minor League Pitching Coordinator Gil Patterson, who counts himself among the A’s coaches and staff who have been impressed with Smith’s work habits and progress.
“Murphy is a complete pitcher and a good learner,” Patterson said. “He has a nice four-pitch mix with a fastball, changeup, curve and cutter and he doesn’t try to overthrow. He’s worked so hard on improving his curve and his cutter and I think just needs to keep pitching. He’s not too far behind two of our other top prospects, Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin. What I like about Murphy is that he answers the bell ... he never misses a start. He has good stuff across the board and what we’re working on now is commanding those pitches a little better and creating more deception with his delivery. He’s almost too smooth. The final step will be to gain a finer command. But in our business, the numbers speak for themselves. I’m certainly hoping Murphy makes it ... he’s a quality and classy guy and if anyone deserves the opportunity, it’s him.”
Getting through the big jump from Single-A to Double-A without much drop-off in performance was a good sign for Smith.
“There is a big difference between A and AA ball,” he said. “The talent is obviously greater which can make things more difficult. The biggest adjustment for me was to trust myself and not try to be better than I can. When I try to do too much I tend to make mistakes. I have and will always be at my best when I’m playing within myself.”
After finishing up his 2012 campaign in early September, the 25-year-old Smith is back in his hometown of Clifton Park, N.Y., enjoying some rare “down” time. This is the first fall that the Athletics haven’t sent Smith to Phoenix for additional work. Instead, after relaxing with friends and family for a short time, he will head to Boston in October for five months of off-season workouts with strength and conditioning specialist Eric Cressey. Looking ahead to the 2013 season, Smith is ready for anything.
“I have no idea where the A’s plan on placing me next year. Triple-A (Sacramento) would be great but you wouldn’t hear me complain about going back to Midland either.”
As he continues his journey in professional baseball, Smith has drawn inspiration from former teammate and friend, Scott Diamond, who in his fifth year of pro ball, has become the most consistent starter for the Minnesota Twins this summer. Diamond’s roots as an undrafted and under-the-radar college pitcher in the Northeast make him a Cinderella story in Major League Baseball, where he gained consideration for an all-star selection and was even in mid-season media discussion for American League Rookie of the Year.
Smith and Diamond overlapped during the 2007 year at Binghamton – Diamond’s junior year and Smith’s freshman season on campus.
“Scott and I were good friends when we played together and we even spent an off-season working out together,” Smith said. “We keep in touch and talk about baseball and things outside baseball. His story about how he has gotten to where he is today is absolutely an inspiration to me. He is a guy I look up to both on and off the field. Scott is a good athlete and pitcher but he is also a good friend.”
Smith hopes to carve out his own Cinderella story some day.
“My goal has always been to make it to the big leagues but I can’t dwell on it,” he says. “I just try to work hard day-in and day-out in hopes that one day it will happen.”
Smith on …
BU head coach Tim Sinicki
“I couldn’t have asked for a better coach. He helped instill in me a good work ethic and furthered my development in baseball.”
BU’s new baseball facility
“They did a great job on the field. Everything from the surface to the dugouts was very well done. The seating will help those parents and friends who want to come watch games.”
Eye-opening part of minor league baseball
“The travel … this past summer I would often leave one field at 11 p.m. and arrive back in Midland at 8 a.m. Sleeping on the bus is something everyone who plays learns how to do.
Diamond to Smith to Augliera … carrying the torch for BU starting pitchers in the pro ranks
“Scott is a good athlete and pitcher but he is also a good friend. Mike and I are also good friends. He (Mike) is very talented and a hard worker and I have no doubt he will have success with the Red Sox.
Memories of baseball at Binghamton
I had a great time in my three years at BU. Winning the America East tournament and going to the NCAA Regional is one of the many highlights. The teams I played on clichéd first place in the America East every year although it took two years of losing in the championship to get over the hump. I will never forget the friends I made in that time.
Plans to finish his accounting degree at Binghamton (Smith was an accounting major with a 3.52 GPA when he signed with the A’s after his junior year on campus)
I have roughly 30 credits left that can be completed in two semesters. I have taken an online French class to help lighten that load. In past years I have even been prepared to enroll in the fall semester however the A’s have asked me to attend the instructional league so I had to back out of those plans. The challenge is that the classes I have left are all upper-level management and accounting classes so they need to be taken at Binghamton and not online. So the only time I can finish is the fall semester, which I have not been able to attend. I still want my degree to be from Binghamton but I just don’t know how soon I can make that happen.
The role of academics in his baseball development
Academics have always been important to me and making that a priority helped develop my work ethic. There is some busy work in between starts whether it is looking back and seeing what I did right and wrong or looking forward and planning how to prepare for my next start. I believe that by being studious when I was younger has helped make me a better student of the game now.