ST. PETERSBURG -- Needing a pitcher to replace Clayton Richard in the rotation, the Padres could have promoted any number of pitchers from Triple-A Tucson, ones with Major League experience, like Thad Weber, Tim Stauffer or Sean O'Sullivan.
Instead, the Padres selected 23-year-old right-hander Burch Smith, the organization's 20th-ranked prospect, to make his Major League debut Saturday when he faces the Rays at Tropicana Field -- after making just six starts at the Double-A level.
San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes said Friday that this decision was more about promoting the best pitcher instead of taking a leap of faith.
"All season, he's thrown well ... more than well," Byrnes said. "He's been dominant. Really, that was it. He throws a lot of strikes with a dynamic fastball. I think he's caught everyone's eye.
"Like any decision, we feel like he can help us win games right now. Longterm, he has a chance to be part of our roster moving forward."
Byrnes saw Smith pitch recently, and others in the front office have filed similar positive reports on him. Smith had a 1.15 ERA in six starts for San Antonio. A 14th-round Draft pick in 2011 out of the University of Oklahoma, Smith has moved fast.
"As much as we talk about the preferred development timeline, you can't always follow a script," Byrnes said. "This time last year, Burch and [Reds pitcher Tony Cingrani] were in the Cal League, and now both are in the rotation. Every guy goes at his own pace."
As for Smith, he spoke with reporters Friday and talked about how Hulk Hogan was on his connecting flight from Atlanta to Tampa.
"I try to be consistent every time out; I'm not doing anything too different from last year," Smith said. "I try to tell myself it's the same game. I like to work up and down, in and out, get ahead with that, let the defense work for me."
The Padres need to add Smith to the 25-man roster before his start Saturday, meaning they will most likely option another pitcher to the Minor Leagues at that point. Smith will also need to be added to the 40-man roster, which might present a trickier proposition for the organization.