Smith's focus on regaining form, not trade talk

Angels reliever off since return, while Bedrosian has been setup man

Smith's focus on regaining form, not trade talk

ANAHEIM -- When Angels reliever Joe Smith came on to handle the ninth inning of an 8-1 series-finale victory over the White Sox on Sunday, it looked to be an innocuous appearance in a meaningless situation.

It was much more than that. Smith is still trying to find his way back after coming off the disabled list July 1. His left hamstring, which held him out for most of June, feels fine. His performance since coming off the DL -- a 7.94 ERA in six appearances entering Monday's 9-5 win over the Rangers -- indicates that he's a work in progress. To get back on track, he'll have to find his way in outings much like Sunday.

"I don't care if it's 8-1 or 11-0 and we're winning or we're losing, I need to pitch," Smith said. "I need to figure out what the [heck]'s going on… I just need to get back to being me."

When Smith came back, the club opened its 10-game road trip with an exhausted, inexperienced bullpen. Smith was fresh and has plenty of experience, though the results weren't what he expected.

"I felt good," Smith said of the decision to come off the DL. "I felt healthy. I just figured that if I'm healthy and the bullpen's kind of gassed, maybe I can come in and help. I'll figure it out. It's just [stunk] not being able to figure it out."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has seen Smith's struggles, saying his setup man's sidearm delivery hasn't quite been right since the injury.

"Joe needs to find his release point and his command," he said. "He's not quite as sharp as we know he can be, and he's trying to find his delivery that will get him to locate pitches the way he can. … His stuff looks good, he just needs to locate and put pitches together."

Smith said he's worked with bullpen coach Scott Radinsky since the All-Star break, breaking down his delivery and comparing it to his past success. Smith said Radinsky knows him as well as anyone, with the two having worked together during Smith's stint with Cleveland.

"[Scott]'s just seen me so much and knows me so well," Smith said. "He knows how to get to me and talk to me and make me understand. It's just a comfort thing."

In the meantime, Smith's setup role has at least appeared to shift toward young right-hander Cam Bedrosian. Bedrosian was up in the bullpen in setup situations Friday and Saturday against Chicago, but did not pitch. He's been dominant, posting a 1.09 ERA and not allowing a run since May 31. Bedrosian has been more aggressive with how he approaches hitters, something he hasn't lost as he's pitched in higher leverage situations.

"Going into this year, it was all about getting ahead of guys and being able to throw strikes with both my fastball and my slider," Bedrosian said.

Smith lauded Bedrosian's performance, saying the young hurler has earned the opportunity while remaining adamant that he will pitch when needed. The 32-year-old Smith is a free agent after the season and could be one of the Angels' best trade chips, but he said he's just trying to get right.

"I've got too much to worry about," Smith said. "I'm here. I'm trying to help this team win. That's why I signed here. I'm worried about getting outs. I'm not throwing the ball well since coming off the DL, so that's my sole focus."

Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Anaheim. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.