This ‘Phillies 50‘ series on the most random players from each Philadelphia Phillies team during the years 1971-2019 reaches the pitcher who combined low impact on the 2006 ball club combined with a minimal big-league career.
Born and raised in Las Vegas, the New York Yankees made pitcher Matt Smith their fourth round selection in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft out of Oklahoma State University.
A starting pitcher for the first handful of seasons in his development, the Yanks didn’t switch the southpaw to the bullpen until the 2005 campaign when he moved from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Columbus.
Smith was bashed around during a 10-game appearance with Grand Canyon in the Arizona Fall League following the 2005 season and began 2006 back at the Triple-A level. However, injuries and bullpen struggles led to the Yankees giving him his first big-league shot during 2006.
After pitching in three April games, Smith was called up for a second time in early June. He would remain in the legendary Yankees pinstripes for an entire month before heading back to the minors.
As the 2006 MLB trade deadline approached the Yankees included Smith as part of a four-player package in exchange for outfielder Bobby Abreu and pitcher Cory Lidle. It would become a fateful deal for the latter, who was killed while flying with his certified flight instructor less than three months later when their aircraft crashed into a Manhattan apartment building.
The Phillies started Smith out with their Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre affiliate. He was promoted to join the big club in late August and remained for the rest of the season. Making his Phillies debut back in New York on August 26, 2006, he tossed a scoreless inning during an 11-5 loss to the host Mets at Shea Stadium.
In all, the lefty would pitch in 14 games with the Phillies over a little more than a month. When he joined the team they were just two games off the NL Wildcard pace. With a week to go they had taken over that playoff spot, but a 3-4 closing week left them finishing three games off the postseason pace.
Smith went 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his time with the 2006 Phillies. He allowed just three hits over 8.2 innings with a 12/3 K:BB ratio. He made the team out of spring training in 2007 and pitched in nine April games that year, but failed to continue his prior success.
Shipped out to Triple-A Ottawa, Smith rediscovered that success. He produced a 2.60 ERA over 16 games during which he allowed 13 hits across 17.1 innings with 16 strikeouts. But then injury struck. He was placed on the DL in mid-June, diagnosed with an elbow that required Tommy John surgery, which he underwent on the Fourth of July.
The Phillies designated Smith for assignment in early January but then re-signed him two weeks later with an invitation to spring training. Sent to the lower levels of the farm system to begin his season, Smith was battered at High-A Clearwater over 10 appearances.
After becoming a free agent following that 2008 campaign Smith signed on with the Chicago Cubs in January 2009. He was released by the Cubs at the end of spring training that year, bringing his career to an end at age 29.
Smith was named to the Oklahoma State University baseball hall of fame class of 2019 and was one of three former Cowboys players honored at a banquet back in January 2019. He remains the school’s all-time strikeouts leader. OSU coach Josh Holliday stated that Smith “had some complete stretches of dominance during his time here, pitched in the College World Series and is our all-time strikeout leader who had a very successful career and reached the major leagues.“