Lehigh Valley IronPigs' Smith takes pride in his work ethic, performance

IronPigs manager Dave Brundage enjoys watching Greg Smith on the mound.

Brundage appreciates the pace with which the 30-year-old pitcher works during his starts and the lefty's ability to work himself back into a good rhythm after things go awry.

"He's fun to watch," Brundage said last week after Smith won his fourth consecutive decision to start the 2014 season.

"It just goes to show you that you don't have to throw 95 miles an hour to win in this game."

Smith is glad his boss is happy with his performance, but he's not going to revel in his fastball any time soon.

"It's hard to take pride in throwing 86," he said, laughing.

Baseball is a funny game. Pitchers such as Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and current Phillies announcer Jamie Moyer were never concerned with radar guns and strikeouts and still managed to win a combined 929 games.

Former Padres closer Trevor Hoffman amassed 601 career saves — second only to baseball's greatest relief pitcher, former Yankee Mariano Rivera — with a fastball and changeup that amounted to slow and slower

Still, fans, media, scouts, managers and front-office personnel are so easily enamored with speed.

Ken Giles' stall is just a few feet away from Smith in the Lehigh Valley clubhouse. The reliever has "100m" Giles stitched on his gloves in reference to his 100-mph fastball.

But it is control of a devastating slider that has Giles fast-tracking through the Phillies organization.

Smith recognizes what he has to work with, so he pays no attention to the numbers that flash on the board in center field of most ballparks.

The Louisiana native concerns himself only with where he pitches end up at home plate.

"It's easier to pitch when you do have that velocity," Smith said. "So it's a little harder and there's a little less margin for error when you don't have that. But pitching is moving the ball in and out, moving the ball up and down, moving the ball back and forth.

"I think no matter how soft or hard you throw, if you can do that, you're going to be successful."

Smith takes a 4-1 record and a 3.72 earned run average into today's start against Toledo (first pitch at 1:35 p.m. from Coca-Cola Park).

He has the team's only complete-game shutout, a 7-inning beauty on April 17 at Syracuse, among his eight starts so far this season.

Those starts have not been every five days, thanks to poor weather and the need to shuffle in the workload of prospects.

Signed as a minor-league free agent last May, Smith has shrugged it all off and works toward one goal when given the ball.

"I want to go out there and put the team in a position to win," he said. "If I can limit the damage like [my start on May 14] or have a really good outing, that does help the team.

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