Eager Smoak takes place with Rangers
First-round Draft pick from 2008 inserted into starting role
ARLINGTON -- Growing up in Goose Creek, S.C., Justin Smoak always dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Friday, it became a reality.
The Texas Rangers called up Smoak from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday and immediately placed him in the six-hole and at first base for Friday's game against the Detroit Tigers. Smoak, a 23-year-old switch-hitter, replaced Chris Davis, who was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
In his first game with the Rangers, Smoak went 0-for-2 with two walks. He led off the ninth inning by drawing a walk, and that proved to be the game-winning run for the Rangers in their 5-4 win over the Tigers. Smoak, however, had been replaced by pinch-runner Joaquin Arias at that point.
Still, it was a successful debut for Smoak. He made a nice defensive play in the first inning, smoothly fielding a well-hit grounder from Miguel Cabrera. The only mishap came in the top of the ninth, when Smoak couldn't haul in Elvis Andrus' throw on a sharp grounder from Tigers leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, which would have ended the game.
"Even if Smoky comes up with that, he's safe," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Jackson is fast. That guy can fly. I think he would've been safe."
Smoak hit .300 with 10 runs scored, six doubles, two home runs, five RBIs and 16 walks in 15 games with Oklahoma City.
"I've just got to be myself and play," Smoak said. "I can't try to hit a home run on every at-bat. Hopefully, I walk more than I strike out, like I have been doing. I've just got to be myself on the field and not try to do too much."
"He's certainly not our savior," Washington said. "We want him to come up here and give us the quality of at-bats that he was giving them down there, just give us good at-bats. And if he sees a pitch he likes, swing at it. I just told him to be himself, have some fun and enjoy it."
Davis, meanwhile, has been sent to Triple-A after starting the season in the Majors for the second consecutive year. Davis was hitting .188 with no home runs and one RBI in 15 games. He walked five times and struck out 17. Last year, Davis was on pace to set a record for strikeouts in a season before being sent down.
Washington's message to Davis was simple: "Get it together and hold on to it."
Regardless, the story of the day was Smoak making his big league debut. While the news came late Thursday night, Smoak said seven or eight family members were able to catch flights and were in attendance Friday.
Many in South Carolina, especially South Carolina alums, were likely to tune in, too. In his three years with the Gamecocks, Smoak became an All-American and set school records in home runs (62), RBIs (207), walks (151) and total bases (485).
Smoak even got a congratulatory text message from his high school teammate, current Orioles catcher Matt Wieters.
"I've heard from a lot of people back home and they're just excited," Smoak said. "Everybody is going to be watching and it's just exciting. I'm really anxious and excited to get going."
Drew Davison is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.