Bronx glare foils Smith in Royals debut

Bronx glare foils Smith in Royals debut

Bronx glare foils Smith in Royals debut
NEW YORK -- Maybe having a pitcher just up from the Minor Leagues start his first game at Yankee Stadium isn't such a good idea. Not for the Royals, anyway.

Left-hander Will Smith, the second Royals rookie to debut as a starter in the Bronx, was pounded for three home runs -- two by Alex Rodriguez -- as the Yankees and Andy Pettitte rolled to an 8-3 victory on Wednesday night with 40,407 fans in the green cathedral.

Strangely enough, Smith and the first Royals callup to start at Yankee Stadium (original version), Eduardo Villacis in 2004, each lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on six hits. The Villacis game, which resulted in a 12-4 Yankees victory, turned out to be the right-hander's only Major League appearance.

Smith will avoid that fate. He's scheduled to start on Tuesday night at Cleveland.

It began well for Smith, as he got Derek Jeter to ground out to shortstop in the first inning.

"I was nervous a little bit," Smith said. "You're facing a future Hall of Famer to start your career in Derek Jeter. That was cool, but at the same time, you've still got to go out and make your pitches and get people out."

That didn't happen.

Curtis Granderson, next up, crashed a home run into the right-field stands. Mark Teixeira walked and Rodriguez hammered a two-run homer over the left-field wall. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

Things smoothed out as Smith retired the next five batters, but Jeter led off the third inning with a double, Granderson singled and a run scored as Teixeira rapped into a double play. Then Rodriguez slammed another drive, to center field, for his second homer. His first blast ended a 52-at-bat homerless drought; the second gave him his 60th multihomer game.

"I've got to believe he knew he was going to hit another one at some time," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said dryly.

So Smith had given up three home runs in three innings.

"Bad location, and they hit 'em," Smith said. "They hit 'em a long ways."

Smith's parents, Charles and Kay, were in from their hometown of Newman, Ga., and sister Charlsie and her husband, David, came from Sandy Creek, Ga., to see how 22-year-old Will would fare in his first visit to New York.

It didn't turn out to be the dream start he'd envisioned.

"It wasn't, but just the fact to be able to be out there in the big leagues, it doesn't get any better than that," Smith said. "That was the dream part; the outcome wasn't."

Smith got one out in the fourth, but after Andruw Jones singled, manager Ned Yost waved to the bullpen for right-hander Luis Mendoza, who was originally scheduled to start this game.

"The long ball hurt him tonight," Yost said of Smith. "At times, he threw some good breaking balls. Other times, some pitches caught too much of the plate. But it's tough coming in here for your first start, in Yankee Stadium against this club."

Pettitte came in with a 13-3 record against the Royals but hadn't started against them since 2009. That old feeling seemed to be there, though, and he cruised until Billy Butler cranked a solo home run to right field in the fourth. The Royals loaded the bases later in the inning, but Pettitte shut the door.

Mitch Maier got into the home-run spirit by leading off the Royals' fifth with a drive over the right-field wall to make it a 5-2 score. But that was all they'd get off Pettitte in his seven-plus innings.

Struggling first baseman Eric Hosmer wound up with three hits, two off Pettitte, and inched his average up to .191.

"Finally, some stuff went my way a little bit, but it was a tough game," Hosmer said. "Andy came out and pitched well and showed why he was the pitcher he is. He worked both sides of the plate well and just threw a great game."

Yost, looking for a plus, figures that Hosmer's first three-hit game of the season could be a stimulus.

"Three bloopers fell in for him," Yost said. "None of them were hit hard, but that's what gets guys going. 'Finally, I've got some hits.' They don't care how they get 'em, so he deserved to have a night like tonight."

It wasn't a very good night for Smith, bitten like Villacis at Yankee Stadium. But Smith will get another chance, and after a few days to get into the Major League routine, perhaps he'll have better fortunes at Cleveland. Unlike in the Bronx, where he was keyed up and had trouble keeping his pitches down.

"Everything's running through your mind -- all the adrenaline, debut and all this stuff," Smith said, "so the pitches were probably a little elevated."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.