SAN DIEGO -- Right-hander Burch Smith is one of a handful of young players on the Padres roster that the organization wants to take a look at over the final three weeks of the season to see if he's a fit for the starting rotation in 2014 and beyond.
On Friday, Smith, 23, made a significant step forward when he overcame a rocky start in a no-decision against the Rockies. After allowing two runs in the first inning, he followed with four scoreless innings.
Smith vowed before the start that he wouldn't simply try to 'blow the ball by hitters' as he did earlier this season when he struggled. After coming back from Triple-A Tucson last week, Smith felt he had a better way to attack hitters.
Consider it a work in progress.
"I was happy that it was better, but I could still be a lot better. I need to cut down on the balls and get ahead. I felt like I was working behind in the count to a lot of hitters," Smith said. "… It was better, but I'm still not satisfied."
Smith, who will likely start again next week in Atlanta, allowed two runs on four hits. He walked four, striking out a career-high seven batters in his five-inning stint.
This was a far cry from his Major League debut on May 11 when he allowed six runs in one inning against the Rays or his next two starts when he yielded five and four runs before heading back to Tucson.
"It didn't look like he was coming out of his delivery, didn't look like he was overthrowing the ball, which is a good thing," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It looked as though his mechanics stayed pretty much in form. I didn't see a lot of variation there. You want that consistency of delivery. I think he did that."
When the Rockies scored twice in the first inning, Smith didn't let it get away from him.
"I tried to slow the game and not let it speed up on me. Slow it down, take a deep breath and go one pitch at a time," Smith said.
The Padres think a lot of Smith, who started the season with Double-A San Antonio. He posted a 2.63 ERA in 18 starts for Tucson after he was sent down in May.
"I think you can envision, long term, a guy who has a chance to have Major League success. But there are some things he has to clean up moving forward, things he needs to be aware of," Black said of Smith, who will pitch in the Arizona Fall League next month.