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Notes: Smith advertising himself

Notes: Smith advertising himself

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Matt Smith learned the art of selling, slogans and product placement while an advertising major at Oklahoma State.

When it came to selling himself, that happened last September, while the Phillies were in the thick of a late-season playoff push.

Having arrived in the organization more than a month earlier with three others in the trade that sent Bobby Abreu to the Yankees, the southpaw was battling for opportunities with fellow lefties Arthur Rhodes, Aaron Fultz, Eude Brito and Fabio Castro.

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Then, on Labor Day at Citizens Bank Park, Smith entered with one out and a runner on first against the Astros. A stolen base moved the runner to second, but Smith retired Lance Berkman on a grounder and fanned Mike Lamb, eliciting cheers from 44,674 fans.

Though he had already made a handful of big-league appearances, "that was my first welcome to the big leagues experience," Smith said. "I was prepared, but wasn't expecting to go in there. A sold-out crowd, the adrenaline was pumping. That was what I had been waiting for my whole life."

Success there -- combined with Rhodes' ineffectiveness and eventual season-ending injury and manager Charlie Manuel's lack of trust in the other three in key spots -- caused Smith's stock to rise, and he quickly became the club's No. 1 left-handed option out of the 'pen.

In other words, Smith got Manuel to buy what he was selling.

"I'm a big believer that you only get so many opportunities in this game," said Smith, who worked a scoreless inning in Saturday's 12-9 Grapefruit League win against the Red Sox. "Last September was probably that defining moment in my career. It was either stay up there or find something else to do. I appreciated the fact that Charlie had confidence in me and threw me out in the fire. That's what you prepare for. It was exciting last year. I learned a lot in a lot of pressure situations."

The Phillies didn't acquire a lefty this offseason, and Fultz and Rhodes left via free agency, seemingly guaranteeing the 27-year-old a spot in the bullpen, not that Smith sees it that way.

Smith, despite growing up in Las Vegas, won't gamble on his future. His mentality stays the same.

"It's nice to hear good things [about my chances], but I can't look at it that way." Smith said. "I have to make it impossible for them to change their mind."

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Impressive in three separate call-ups with the Yankees as a rookie in 2006, the converted starter learned a lot about situational relieving from veteran Mike Myers with the Yanks and later from Fultz. Smith quietly began his career with an 18 2/3-inning scoreless streak and finished the year having surrendered two runs in 20 2/3 innings over 26 outings. With the Phils, he posted a 2.08 ERA in 14 games.

"One of the biggest things about [Smith] is he kept his composure," said Manuel said. "[His motion] is kind of hard to pick up."

Smith's quirky delivery is tough because it comes from a slender 6-foot-4, 215-pound body, and a high-80s cut fastball that tails away from lefties.

A fourth-round pick in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, Smith reached a crossroads after an unspectacular 2004 season at Double-A Trenton, when he compiled a 4.96 ERA as a starter. By 2006, he was exclusively a reliever and put himself back on the radar.

Because of his starter's mentality, Smith believes he can do more than situational work. But he understands his ticket is punched by his ability to get out lefties.

"I'd like to broaden that role, but my job is to get out left-handers, because if I don't do that, I'm probably not going to be on this team," Smith said. "I know that role is open. I've always taken pride in getting out lefties, because I'm not a dummy. I figured if I couldn't start, I might as well excel at something else. I look at it like you want to have a role, because that creates a better chance of you making the team. If this team needs a situational lefty guy, I want to be that guy. That's priority No. 1."

Because, as he said, he's no dummy, and this is better than advertising.

"I interned at an advertising agency about three or four years ago," he said. "I can see myself doing that, but this is something I've loved all my life. You always want to look at your career and say, 'I did everything I could,' and if you can't do it, you can't do it. I wanted to give myself every opportunity. I don't want to think about [advertising] for a long time. This is a great situation for me."

Game stuff: Infielder Greg Dobbs continued to impress with a home run, one of his four hits on Saturday. It was his third homer of the spring, and second in Grapefruit League play. Dobbs, who drove in four and scored four runs, remains in the lead for one of two bench spots, with a .700 batting average in three games. He's competing with Karim Garcia, Chris Coste and Randall Simon. ... Michael Bourn scored three runs and laced three hits, including a triple. Adam Eaton went three innings in his Grapefruit League debut, allowing one run on one hit, with no walks and two strikeouts. The hit was a homer to Brandon Moss, a shot that sailed over the center-field wall and bounced back on to the field after hitting a wooden railing near two camera operators.

A second visit: General manager Pat Gillick didn't travel to Fort Myers, and instead spent a second afternoon in Dunedin. This time, he took in a Blue Jays game against the Devil Rays.

Gillick spent Wednesday watching a Blue Jays workout, explaining to reporters that he had some down time because the Phillies didn't play until that night.

Though Gillick still knows many people in the organization from his time as Toronto's GM, there have been published reports that the Phillies would like to acquire Jays outfielder Alex Rios. If Toronto accepted a package that could include Jon Lieber in exchange for Rios, the domino effect could include reviving talks with San Diego that would send Aaron Rowand to the Padres for Scott Linebrink.

Tampa Bay is also believed to be willing to part with outfielder Carl Crawford or Rocco Baldelli, though that swap would have to include a younger starter such as Cole Hamels, which is highly unlikely.

The Blue Jays and Phillies also scheduled a pair of "B" games (on Monday at the Carpenter Complex and Thursday at Knology Park), and Toronto could send over some young arms for evaluation purposes.

Coming up: Hamels makes his Spring Training debut on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Yankees' Carl Pavano. Those expecting to see Abreu will be disappointed, as the former Phillie right fielder is out for two weeks with a strained right oblique muscle.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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