Even before new Cubs’ relief pitcher Joe Smith arrived at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, he was well aware he was joining a crowded bullpen.
Smith was obtained from the Angels just before Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline for minor league pitcher Jesus Castillo. Smith adds what manager Joe Maddon describes as “funk” to his corps of relievers.
But exactly how Smith and his side-arm repertoire of sinkers and sliders fits in to the Cubs’ strategy doesn’t matter much to the 32-year-old right-hander.
“Whenever they call my name, I’m just here to pitch and help the team win,” Smith said before Tuesday’s game against the Marlins. “It doesn’t matter to me when I pitch.”
Smith has been used primarily as a set-up man and closer during 10 major league seasons with the Mets, Indians and Angels. This season, Smith has a 1-4 record with six holds, six saves and a 3.82 ERA in 38 relief appearances.
To make room for Smith, the Cubs optioned Spencer Patton to Class AAA Iowa on Tuesday.
Maddon said because of the Cubs’ bullpen depth, Smith will likely be used earlier in games with Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman in line to finish games off.
Maddon spoke with Smith Tuesday about the changes that await him, whether it be with a new ballpark, a new league and a new role.
“They need to know (how they will be used) because these guys are routine freaks,” Maddon said.
Given all the pieces the Cubs’ bullpen already has, Smith just wants to contribute any way possible. When told of Maddon’s affinity for his “funk” on Tuesday, Smith smiled, saying he appreciated his new manager’s characterization of his side-arm style.
“It’s better than some of the ways I’ve heard (it described),” Smith said. “So I’ll take that one.”
Smith called being traded at the deadline a whirlwind. After the deal was completed, Smith boarded an afternoon flight with his wife and dog so he could arrive in time for Tuesday’s game.
The move also brings Smith closer to his family in Ohio and specifically his mother, Lee, who was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, a genetic disorder for which there is no cure and that afflicts 30,000 people in the United States.
Playing in Chicago rather than on the West Coast eliminates a large share of the travel Smith’s mother. Smith also has relatives in St. Charles and Geneva, adding to the convenience of getting his family to games until the Cubs travel to Cincinnati in September.
“(A) five-hour drive is better than a five-hour flight,” Smith said of his family’s travel plans.
Smith said after learning he had been traded, he called his mother first to make her aware of his change of proximity.
He said the phone call made for an interesting conversation.
“She was excited about 10 seconds and then she went on to a different topic,” Smith said. “But that’s just how my mom is.”
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