Rockies pitcher Smith hopes to rebound

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Pitcher Greg Smith has been the other guy for the Colorado Rockies.

They acquired the 26-year-old left-hander from the Oakland Athletics in the November 2008 deal for left fielder Matt Holliday that also brought closer Huston Street and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to Colorado.

The latter two flourished last year and helped the Rockies reach the postseason as the National League wild-card team.

Smith languished, his 2009 season hampered by a succession of mishaps - flu, stomach virus, two staph infections, shoulder tendinitis and back spasms - starting in spring training that limited him to 11 starts and 49 1-3 innings at three Rockies farm clubs.

"Last year, it was whether or not I was going to be able to throw in my mind or if it was going to hurt or what was going to hurt," Smith said Wednesday. "This year, it's worrying about working hitters and the strategy of the game."

Being in recovery mode last year was bad enough for Smith. The success of Street and Gonzalez only made matters worse.

"Mentally, I beat myself up all last year," said Smith, who is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut and pitch two innings Friday at Tempe, Ariz., against the Los Angeles Angels. "Other than personally wanting to get out there and play, it was, 'OK, so the Rockies got two guys in a trade and a guy that was hurt all year.'"

As a rookie with the A's in 2008, Smith led the team in starts (32) and innings (190 1-3) while going 7-16 with a 4.16 ERA and allowing 169 hits. But toward the end of his trying 2009 season, Smith remembers telling roving pitching coordinator Bo McLaughlin, "'I just want a mulligan. I just want this year to be over. I want to go home and work on my offseason and I want to get healthy."

At home in Lake Charles, La., Smith got healthy and got heavier. He weighed 185 pounds when the 2009 season ended but reported to camp at 202. Smith's diet was high in proteins and included meals every three hours.

"This is definitely the heaviest I've been," Smith said. "I've never weighed over 200 pounds in my life. I tell myself it's going to be a durable heavy. Granted, we have yet to see that, but I think it'll help me physically."

Pitching coach Bob Apodaca said Smith's secondary pitches and his overall command aren't there yet. But that's more a function of spring training being in the early stages than anything physical.

"You do see a much, much healthier person," Apodaca said. "When (the ball) comes out of his hand, there's much more life. You could count the stitches on the baseball when he threw it last year. This year it's hard for me to see any of it."

With two minor league options remaining, Smith seems destined to open the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, since the Rockies rotation seems set. Smith said he would be disappointed not to make the Rockies out of spring training as a starter or in any relief role but "can see what's in front of me."

Regardless, he at least has a chance to compete, unlike a year ago when spring training was the beginning of a downward spiral.

"You want to take the physical side of the year and just throw it away, totally forget about it," Smith said. "But the mental side of it was priceless. I learned so much last year from what to do to get healthy, what to do to stay healthy, an offseason program and how I tweaked that a little bit and how I put on weight."

NOTES: Street has inflammation in his right shoulder but said, "It feels like it's coming around." Trainer Keith Dugger gave Street a day off after he played catch Monday and Tuesday at 90 feet. Street said the plan Thursday is to long toss at 120 feet and throw off flat ground from approximately 60 feet, 6 inches. Street said he expects to make about 10 appearances in Cactus League games, which would be in keeping with past springs and have him ready for the beginning of the regular season. ... Center fielder Dexter Fowler worked out after missing two days with stomach flu. ... The Rockies open the exhibition season Thursday against the Diamondbacks. Jason Hammel and Jorge De La Rosa are each scheduled to pitch two innings.

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