Smith making most of opportunity with Chicago White Sox
The opening of spring training was less than a week away, and Kevan Smith got a punch in the gut as he was packing for camp.
On Feb. 10, the 29-year-old catcher learned he was taken off the Chicago White Sox's 40-man roster and outrighted to Class AAA Charlotte.
Smith still was present for spring training, but he reported as a nonroster invitee.
"You're an organization guy and you tend to think that you're untouchable," said Smith, the Sox's seventh-round draft pick in 2011 out of Pitt. "You would never think coming into the spring that you would be designated like that, so when I was told about it was kind of a blow. Maybe I'm not as important to this organization as I thought I was.
"But in the grand scheme of things, you are. It was a business decision, and as you get older you start to realize nothing's personal. It's all business. They needed a spot for maybe a potential trade they were working on and that moment, with all of the (major-league) rosters full, maybe they figured this would sneak me through without somebody claiming me."
Smith slipped through waivers, and he played the first two weeks of the season with Charlotte.
There undoubtedly were times when the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder wished he were picked up by another team after spending six-plus years in the White Sox's farm system.
"If I did get claimed, I'm sure they (Sox) would have been upset even if it benefited my career," Smith said. "But as upset as I was, I knew there was still a big opportunity here and I just had to run with it. (Manager) Ricky (Renteria) promised me an opportunity in spring. They gave it to me, I performed well and just kind of rolled with the punches."
When veteran catcher Geovany Soto went on the 10-day disabled list with elbow inflammation in mid-April, Smith came up from Charlotte and took Soto's roster spot. Soto recovered and was activated on April 21, sending Smith back to Triple-A.
Soto went back on the DL on May 10 and had elbow surgery. He is not expected to be back until mid-August at the earliest, so Smith has gotten an extended look with the Sox.
"He's obviously been doing a very nice job," Renteria said. "He's settling in with all the pitchers. He's a very studious individual. He takes pride in what he does behind the plate, has ever since he got here and even last year when he was here.
"It's been pretty nice to have him kind of settling in and doing what he's doing. Hopefully he continues to improve and continues to help us moving forward."
Smith has been known for his bat since being drafted, and he had a .283/.302/.375 hitting line with 1 home run and 13 RBI heading into Monday night's game at Oakland.
An aggressive hitter, Smith drew his only walk of the season last Tuesday against the New York Yankees.
"The majority of these guys throw strikes up here, so I'm going to be swinging," he said. "There's guys like Omar (Narvaez) that are very patient; they wait for their pitch. That's something I can get better at and I try to work on. But when I'm up there I'm a very aggressive hitter."
Defensively, Smith remains a work in progress.
After playing two years of college football at Pitt -- Smith was a quarterback under head coach Dave Wannstedt -- he became a full-time baseball player.
Smith has become a standout pitch framer but has thrown out only one of 21 basestealers this season.
"I've hit all my career," Smith said. "What I really want to do is feel comfortable behind the plate, comfortable catching these guys, making sure they have confidence in me."