In a spring training game that quickly got away from the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday in Peoria, Pavin Smith yanked a home run into the San Diego Padres’ bullpen in right field.
He also singled and scored, and lined out in his first at-bat. Maybe his success, albeit early in the spring, was a product of the work Smith did in winter ball in the Dominican Republic over the offseason.
“Felt good,” Smith said of his home run. “Just getting out here with the guys again is a fun experience and something never taken for granted.”
Smith has reason to be hopeful. The former first-round draft pick struggled at the plate, hitting .207 and in a slump last season before he was optioned to Triple-A Reno. The hope was to get back on track offensively and return to the big leagues.
But within days of arriving in the minors, Smith suffered a fractured wrist diving for a ball in the outfield. He ended up missing more than two months of action, and lost valuable at-bats that could have helped him.
By the time he returned to the Diamondbacks in late September, Smith had lost his spot on the outfield depth chart. Now he is trying to win a job as a first baseman, outfielder and potential designated hitter.
“You give yourself a second to say, ‘Oh, this is unfortunate.’ But then you’ve got move on quickly. And l think I did that and took some positives from it,” Smith said. “Obviously just didn’t have much confidence and wasn’t able to ever get going, get any momentum. Every single day just trying to find it and never did. So, it was it was definitely a tough experience, but one that I’ll look back on later in life and appreciate.”
Smith was on board and embraced the assignment.
The Diamondbacks asked Smith to go to the Dominican and get some of those 250 at-bats he didn’t get during the regular season. He got 65 plate appearances and hit .292.
At one point, manager Torey Lovullo made his first-ever trip to the island nation and sat down with the hitting coach for Tigres de Licey of Santo Domingo, the team Smith played for.
The coach raved about Smith’s workouts.
“He talked to me about how hard (Smith) worked to refine those skills. So it’s two things, it’s him doing it the way we’ve asked him to do it. And then him sticking to that plan,” Lovullo said. “So I guess I love his process. I love his ability to search for information, trust the information and apply it.
“We were legitimately going to send him down (to Reno) for a couple of weeks to get his swing right, and then he got hurt. So part two of what I love is his attitude and his ability to just say, ‘We roll with this punch, it wasn’t what anybody wanted. But I’m going to go out be the best that I can possibly be in 2023.'”
What Smith and Lovullo found about Dominican pro baseball is how competitive it is, and how results are what matter most.
“So we could thrust Pavin into that situation not only fundamentally but mentally to prepare and make up for what he lost last year,” Lovullo said. “So I think it’s going down there with a healthy mindset, which he had.”
Smith enjoyed his time in the country.
“I loved it. I love the people down there, they love baseball. If you’re playing well, they love you. And we won a lot of games down there. The culture is great, the food. I like the food a lot, too.”
Padres 18, Diamondbacks 6
At Peoria Sports Complex
At the plate: 1B Pavin Smith hit a two-run home run and singled. CF Alek Thomas hit a two-run double to left in the sixth inning, then scored on Buddy Kennedy’s triple. The Diamondbacks scored four runs in the sixth inning but were down 14-6 at the end of it.
On the mound: LHP Tommy Henry, competing for the fifth spot in the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation, struck out two in his first inning of work. Then he gave up four earned runs on two hits, two walks and an error, including a three-run home run from Trent Grisham. Henry’s line was four earned runs allowed on three hits, two walks and two strikeouts. “First inning stuff felt pretty good. You know, the adjustments we’ve made in camp, this was the first time I’ve gotten to use them in a game, mechanical adjustments. So I was really happy with how I felt,” Henry said. … Reliever Blake Workman got just one out in the second inning in relief of Henry, giving up four earned runs on five hits and two hit batters. Reliever Austin Brice allowed three earned runs in an inning of work.
Extra bases: LF Corbin Carroll had the sunglasses on in left field in the bottom of the first inning, but still couldn’t bring in a long fly ball to the warning track hit by the Padres’ Juan Soto. Carroll did get a glove on the ball but dropped it, and the hit was scored a double. … An error at third base by Deyvison De Los Santos prolonged the Padres’ nine-run second inning. … There were two pitch clock violations by the Padres that gave the Diamondbacks a free ball in counts. … Lovullo on the game: “Sloppy all the way around. … It’s early spring training. I know these things are going to happen. And we’ll process it and move on.”
Monday’s games: Diamondbacks RHP Brandon Pfaadt vs. Cubs RHP Caleb Kilian , 1:10 p.m., Salt River Fields. Also Diamondbacks vs. West Virginia University, 6:40 p.m., Salt River Fields. LHP Blake Walston is scheduled to start against the Mountaineers in a game in which a couple of big leaguers will play to get at-bats, Lovullo said, but the majority will be from the player development side. It will be staffed by minor league coaches with major league coaches including Lovullo in attendance to observe.