Right-handed starting pitcher Murphy Smith is coming off the most successful year in his young career. In his 2011 season with the High-A Stockton Ports, he played a key role in the team's rotation and even helped them get to the California League finals. Smith recorded a career-best 3.94 ERA, a 6-9 record and an impressive 100:33 K:BB ratio in 137.0 innings for Stockton. That effort earned him a trip to the Arizona Fall League.
This season the righty was promoted to Double-A and has spent the entire year as a Rockhound. The results have not quite been the same as in High-A but Smith is still working hard to become a more complete pitcher. The Clifton Park, N.Y. native has posted a 6-9 record with a 4.46 ERA and 71 strike-outs compared to 46 walks. Opponents are hitting .314 off of him.
Smith has been a workhorse in the Midland rotation, a characteristic that has marked every year of his minor league career. This year he has thrown 121.0 innings, which is second on the team to Sonny Gray (122.1 innings).
Edward Isaacs recently spoke with the right-hander.
Edward Isaacs: Murphy, this is your first season with Midland, how are you liking the club?
Murphy Smith: This season has been fun. There are a lot of good players all across this team. We all get along so there has been good team chemistry all season.
EI: Have you noticed a difference among hitters in Double-A and the lower classes?
MS: I feel like the hitters here are more patient with their approach. They know what their pitches are and are willing to wait until they see it. Overall, they have more discipline. They are also able to take advantage of your mistakes more frequently. You can't get away with as much here.
EI: How have you felt about your season so far?
MS: I haven't had the season I'd hoped for. I've struggled with being consistent all year. I started strong but haven't performed well in the second half of the season. I have to throw more strikes and quit walking so many batters.
EI: Coming into the season did you set any goals for yourself?
MS: Yes. First off I wanted to start in Double-A, which obviously I have. I wanted to have a solid year in Double-A and finish strong going into the off-season. I also wanted to make the jump to Triple-A at some point in the year.
EI: You started the season in the bullpen even though you've been a starter in the past. Do you prefer starting over being a bullpen guy? Had you ever relieved before this season?
MS: Starting has always been my thing. It's what I enjoy competing in and what I'm most comfortable with. The only other time I relieved was my freshman year in college. I was a starter again the next summer.
EI: You've been a workhorse throughout your entire career with Oakland. This year your second on the pitching staff with 121.0 innings. What is your mentality when you step out on the mound?
MS: I just want to get guys out, throw strikes and work as deep into the game as I can. I love to compete and am not satisfied when I have to leave a game early because I'm struggling. I hate walking guys. I'd rather throw more strikes and give up hits than give free passes to players.
EI: What pitches do you feature in your arsenal?
MS: I have a fastball, a change-up, a curveball and a cutter.
EI: What are your best pitches?
MS: I think my fastball and my change-up but I'm still trying to become more consistent with my location with all my pitches.
EI: You were a Texas League Mid-Season All-Star this year. What was your initial reaction when you found out?
MS: I was very excited. It was an honor to be apart of it. Both rosters were full of great players. It just proved how good this league is.