NEW YORK -- Besides a recent two-game scuffle, outfielder Seth Smith has been everything the Padres hoped for, and then some.
Staying with the team after Spring Training, Smith was originally intended to be a strong left-handed bat off the bench, who would occasionally get a few starts. But after facing a lot of righties early on in the year, and benefiting from early injuries to Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin, Smith has earned a regular spot in the lineup.
"He's done a nice job from game one, when he hit the homer off Brian Wilson to tie the game off the bench in a pinch-hitting role," said manager Bud Black. "There was a period of time where we only saw a couple lefties as the season went on, so he kept playing. His average for the very first time just dipped below .300 here lately. I don't want to say it's a surprise, because I saw this guy in Colorado, saw this guy do some good things in Oakland. Of all the guys on offense, he's held his end of the bargain."
San Diego's struggles offensively aren't news these days. They rank last in runs (202), average (.215), on-base percentage (.274) and slugging (.343) coming into Saturday's game.
But Smith has helped the majority of all of those numbers. He's hitting .290 with a .904 OPS clip, slugging six home runs, two within the last week. It's all the more impressive considering he changed his stance at the plate in Spring Training, standing more upright in the box
"That's the thing, trusting and going with it," said Black. "It helped him on the high fastball, helped him on elevated pitches, you see the ball better, there's a little less movement. To have that confidence that it's going to work and stay with it is huge.
"Again, he has to truly believe he can continue to do the kind of work that he's done. He's above his career average [.267] and he's doing great work. He's been a guy that's obviously been in the middle part of our order all year and doing his part to help our team.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.