CLEVELAND -- The back end of Cleveland's bullpen has been the source of many headaches over the course of this season. Very few of them can be attributed to Joe Smith.
Smith, a sidearming righty whose performance should garner attention if his name does not, has pitched to the tune of a 2.52 ERA throughout 59 appearances. Tribe manager Terry Francona uses him often and appreciates his consistency.
"Because of his arm angle, I think people sometimes take for granted that he's a situational guy, and he's not," Francona said. "He's learned to take the sting out of a lot of left-handers' bats. He's always going to be tougher vs. righties because of his style. But he's learned how to elevate a fastball, throw a breaking ball to a lefty, to kind of neutralize them enough [to] where he can pitch full innings when the game is on the line."
The struggles of former setup man Vinnie Pestano have forced Cleveland to treat the eighth inning differently than it has before. Smith has made 37 appearances in the eighth, in which he owns a 1.93 ERA.
In all, Smith -- who is eligible for free agency after this season -- has recorded 45 strikeouts against 21 walks over 53 2/3 innings, while keeping opposing batters to a .244 average with a 1.29 WHIP. Of his 20 inherited runners, only five have come around to score.
"He's just really dependable," Francona said. "You can't run on him. He doesn't really walk very many guys. That's a nice combination."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less