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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Smith has started to accept starting

Jaime Cárdenas Staff writer

The day before pitcher David Smith made his Spokane Indians debut as a starter, he talked about not liking the pregame waiting that goes with being a starter.

As a reliever, the left-hander had become accustomed to not knowing when he would pitch. If somebody told Smith to warm up, he would warm up. If Indians manager Greg Riddoch asked Smith to pitch, he would pitch.

There is not much waiting involved in being a reliever, and not much thinking as a result.

“Some guys can’t handle the waiting,” said Spokane’s pitching coach Glenn Abbott last week, prior to Smith’s second start. “They start thinking too much.”

To counter the waiting before each start, Smith imagines someone getting on a walkie-talkie to ask him to warm up to go into the game. He then goes and does his pregame warm-up.

“I take a reliever’s approach to being a starter,” said Smith, 22, who on Thursday held the Vancouver Canadians to four hits in five innings but did not figure in the decision of the Indians’ 2-1 win.

Smith has yet to register a win in three starts, but he has held the opposition to 12 hits in 15 innings as a starter. He also didn’t yield a run through the first 10 innings.

An undrafted free agent signed by the Texas Rangers, Smith took over Jesse Hall’s spot on the rotation after Hall was hit in the head with a line drive. Smith had a stretch of 12 1/3 innings pitched without allowing a run snapped in the third inning of his second start, on July 29 against Salem-Keizer.

Through eight games Smith has allowed five runs, one unearned, on 22 hits for an earned run average of 1.21 in 29 2/3 innings. He has given up two home runs and has 13 strikeouts.

His next scheduled start is at home against Boise on Tuesday.

All in the eye

It’s all in the eye – the batters’ eye.

Many Indians players, including Phillip Hawke and Steve Murphy, believe that the batters’ eye – the background the batter sees when at the plate – at Avista Stadium has plenty to do with the team’s power surge at home this season. Spokane is batting .280 with 26 home runs at home.

Most major league stadiums have a solid background in center field, or cover the center-field seats in black, to help the batters spot the ball better when the pitcher releases it. But every stadium has different dimensions.

The batters’ eye at Avista is directly behind the mound. At Tri-City, according to Hawke, it is to the left of the mound. That makes it difficult on left-handers, such as Hawke, to cleanly see the ball when facing left-handed pitchers.

Trying to see the ball through white space on an advertisement is another variable with which players don’t want to deal. Trying to figure out whether the pitcher is going to throw a fastball or a changeup, and if the pitch is going to be high and inside or low and away, is already hard enough.

“It might be a mental thing,” said Hawke, who has four home runs and seven RBIs at home, and no homers and three RBIs on the road. “But it is just one less thing you have to think about.”

But one small thing is a huge advantage, as it turns out.

At home, the Indians had belted 16 more home runs and had scored 21 more runs than on the road. Spokane’s slugging percentage is more than a hundred points better at home (.470) than on the road (.344).

Going, going, gone

The Indians’ 26 home runs at Avista are the most by any team in the Northwest League at home. Everett, which plays in traditionally homer-friendly Everett Memorial Stadium, has 24.

Overall, the Indians are in second place with 36 homers, one behind Everett.

Mighty Duran

When there are runners on second or third and there are two outs, pitchers cringe when they hear this sound: “Here I come to save the day.”

Because pitchers know that it means German Duran, nicknamed Mighty Mouse by teammates and coaches, is next to bat. And with two outs and runners in scoring position, 5-foot-10 Duran is hitting .421 in 19 at bats with 14 RBIs.

Duran, who bats second in the lineup, has driven in 19 of his 23 RBIs – second on the team – when there are runners in scoring position.

With the bases loaded, the shortstop is batting a mighty .500 with seven RBIs in six at-bats.

Extra! Extra!

The Indians have played in six extra-inning games this season, following Wednesday’s 5-4 loss at Vancouver in 10 innings.

Their 4-2 record in those games ties them with Yakima – which also has a record of 4-2 in extra-inning affairs – for most extra-inning games won.

Only Salem-Keizer has played in more extra-inning games (seven), and only Tri-City has a better winning percentage in extra-inning games (.750).

Spokane handed Tri-City its only blemish on June 24 when the Indians beat the Dust Devils 2-1 in 11 innings.

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