Smith’s grand slam ends A’s wild spring training comeback win originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The Athletics have plenty of at-bats to be won for the 2023 MLB season, and infielder Kevin Smith is doing his best this spring to show the coaching staff he’s ready for an increased role.
Smith, acquired last March from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Matt Chapman trade, made a loud case for an Opening Day roster spot Friday when he connected for a walk-off grand slam to cap a wild A’s 12-11 comeback win over the Texas Rangers at HohoKam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz.
The A’s wound up scoring seven runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to stun the Rangers, who led 8-1 entering the bottom of the eighth inning and 11-5 entering the bottom of the ninth.
Smith came into the game in the top of the sixth inning as a defensive replacement for Jace Peterson, and the 26-year-old still managed to go 2 for 3 with an RBI ground rule double and the grand slam, picking up five RBI in the win.
In eight games this spring, Smith is now 8 for 20 (.400) with two homers and nine RBI. He has a .429 on-base percentage and a .750 slugging percentage.
A former top 100 MLB prospect, Smith began the 2022 season with the big-league club and spent two months with the A’s before being sent back to Triple-A Las Vegas. In 47 games with Oakland last season, Smith hit .180/.216/.302 with just two homers in 139 at-bats.
But with so much roster uncertainty, Smith is showing that he might be ready for regular playing time at the MLB level.
Smith wasn’t the only player showing off his skills Friday, as outfield prospect Esteury Ruiz, acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the three-team trade that sent Sean Murphy to the Atlanta Braves this offseason, went 1 for 3 with an RBI double and a stolen base, his third of the spring.
In the battle for the starting center fielder, Ruiz is hitting just .182 this spring, while Cristian Pache is hitting .400 and making catches like this.
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Very little is set in stone concerning the A’s 26-man Opening Day roster, and with a few weeks to go, several young players — led by Smith, Ruiz and Pache — are doing their best to impress manager Mark Kotsay and his coaching staff.