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Smith learning to be pro

Pleasant Grove alum finding groove in minor leagues

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Jordan Smith of Pleasant Grove pitches professionally for the Billings Mustangs.

Jordan Smith of Pleasant Grove pitches professionally for the Billings Mustangs.

Paul Hartman

OGDEN — Jordan Smith struck when the iron was hot.

Smith, a longtime catcher, had pitched just 26 2/3 collegiate innings when the Cincinnati Reds came calling in June for his build and his 94 mph fastball, and made him a sixth-round selection in the draft.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound righthander jumped at the opportunity.

"I had a pretty good idea that I would be going in the top 10 (rounds) and I basically told all the scouts if they drafted me I'd sign," Smith said after his start Sunday in Ogden. "I wanted to play pro ball."

He passed on an opportunity to play at UCLA, and dove head-first into professional baseball, and four months into his career he's making a big splash for the rookie-league Billings Mustangs.

Prior to Sunday's loss, which he called his worst outing of the year, Smith carried a 6-1 record with a 2.12 ERA. In the Mustangs' 14-5 loss to Ogden, he gave up six runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak dating back to Aug. 6, and it was his first loss on the road this season.

Not bad for a righty who started pitching during the latter part of his freshman year at Salt Lake Community College.

Smith pitched and caught while growing up in Pleasant Grove, but chose to only catch in the eighth grade. He caught at SLCC before making the transition to pitcher. He pitched 2 1/3 innings and allowed four hits while striking out two.

"I had a few people pushing me to become a pitcher because I have a better body for pitching than anything," he said. "I kind of wanted to do both but I knew I had to pick one of them and I figured I could make it to the major leagues by being a pitcher."

Smith transferred to Community College of Southern Nevada where he hoped he'd get more innings, but he didn't get as many as he would have liked coming out of the bullpen as the team's closer.

In 24 1/3 innings he was 1-3 with an 4.81 ERA with five saves. He walked eight while striking out 21. Opponents were hitting .278 against him.

"Innings there were inconsistent," he said. "I was learning and getting a feel and did all right, but it was inconsistent. I figured if I got into pro ball it would give me more consistent innings, then I could develop into a better pitcher."

He was right.

In 64 innings (13 starts), he's 6-2 with a 2.81 ERA. He's allowed 51 hits, 24 runs (20 earned), while walking just 17 and striking out 45. He went 57 1/3 innings before allowing his first home run. He allowed his second in the loss to Ogden. Also prior to Sunday, he hadn't allowed more than six hits, and three times he allowed just one hit in three appearances of five, five and six innings, respectively.

"They (the Reds) told me to stay between 90 and 93 and be a pitcher instead of a thrower," he said. "I've been successful my whole career ... I'm throwing strikes and working on everything. I'm trying to get a change up, but it's a work in progress right now."

He's also working on developing a splitter to use as his out pitch.

Right now, he's a starter and the ace of the Mustangs' staff, but he can see the time that he could be moved back into the bullpen.

"I like both of them," said Smith, who will go to the the Instructional League in October. "I closed at Southern Nevada and I've started here and I have enjoyed both of them. I like the pressure situations and I think I'm cut out for both, but whatever pays me the money, I'll be fine."

He couldn't have written a better script for his first year in professional ball.

"I've had a real good year so far," he said. "I expect to keep improving and keep working on my goal to get to the big leagues."

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com