SAN DIEGO -- On a team that has struggled to score runs, outfielder Seth Smith has proven to be the best bat in the lineup through the Padres' first 35 games.
"He's been our most consistent offensive performer, no doubt about it," said Padres manager Bud Black.
Smith went into Thursday's game against the Marlins with a line of .295/.394/.466 and is off to a torrid start in May, with eight hits in 18 at-bats.
Where the left-handed Smith has really succeeded is against right-handed pitching -- which was the main reason the team parted with reliever Luke Gregerson to acquire Smith from the A's.
Last season, the Padres ranked 25th in baseball with a .241 average against right-handed pitching and 29th in OPS (.668) against righties.
This season, Smith has a .305/.389/.488 line against righties in 96 plate appearances with 10 extra-base hits and all seven of his RBIs.
Smith has gotten more playing time early in the season than the Padres originally expected because of injuries to outfielders Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin in Spring Training and because the team has faced just four left-handed starting pitchers.
"The thought in Spring Training was Quentin, Maybin, [Will] Venable and [Chris] Denorfia ... those four getting a lot of playing time with Seth mixing in there, giving us that left-handed bat off the bench. But as the season unfolds, many things can happen," Black said.
"That put Seth right in the middle of the action."
Not that Black is surprised by any of this. He liked Smith when he was with the Rockies.
"Offensively, he's been the guy who has remained consistent and has performed. He's getting on base, hitting for average and has done a nice job in left," Black said. "I don't want to say that he's exceeded expectations, but we've thrust him in there about every day.
"No complaints. He's played his butt off."