NEW YORK -- Former first-round Draft pick Josh Smoker, whom the Mets signed following a free-agent tryout in 2015, has completed his unorthodox arc to the big leagues. The Mets called up Smoker as their 26th man for Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Cardinals, a brief reward for his unexpected ascension through the Minors.
Smoker, who did not appear in the Mets' 3-1 win in Game 2, earned his cup of coffee thanks to a Major League Baseball rule allowing teams to carry a 26th man for doubleheaders. The left-hander owned a 4.73 ERA with one save in 43 games at Triple-A Las Vegas, but he posted a 0.90 ERA over his final seven appearances there, with 15 strikeouts in 10 innings.
None of those statistics, however, tell the full, winding story of Smoker's past few seasons. A first-round Draft pick of the Nationals in 2007, Smoker struggled initially as a starting pitcher, suffered the first of multiple shoulder injuries, converted to the bullpen, then lost his job when he couldn't make it out of Class A as a 23-year-old. Smoker underwent a second shoulder surgery in 2013, hooked on with an independent league team the following season and, last spring, signed with the Mets on a tip from a scout.
With Smoker's velocity back approaching triple digits, he rose rapidly up the Minor League ranks, raising eyebrows this spring at big league camp. Though Smoker didn't make the team and struggled initially at Las Vegas, he appears to have found a groove in recent weeks.
That earned Smoker a plane ticket to New York at age 27, nine years removed from his selection in the Draft. It was a whirlwind two days for Smoker, who flew with the 51s from Las Vegas to Fresno, Calif., before receiving a phone call from the Mets in the middle of the night. His instructions were to fly to New York, where he arrived in the sixth inning of the Mets' doubleheader nightcap. Smoker watched the game's final three innings from the bullpen bench before packing his bags back up for a return trip to California.
"That was a good wakeup call, definitely a good wakeup call," Smoker said, laughing. "One I won't forget."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.