Ohio native Matt Smoral spent the 2013 baseball season pitching for the Gulf Coast Blue Jays in Dunedin, Florida.

Smoral strives for command in second season

Lefty Blue Jays prospect hopes to improve on 2013 campaign

DUNEDIN, Fla. –  After a tough first professional season with the rookie-class Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, young Toronto prospect Matt Smoral hopes to progress during the upcoming season.

Smoral, a 6-foot-9 left-handed pitcher ran into trouble in his first pro season with the Blue Jays organization, going 0-2 with a 7.01 ERA and struggled with control, walking 26 batters over 25 2/3 innings.

Despite his difficulties, the native of Solon, Ohio remains positive and focused on improving his results this year.

“Last year was tough. It was my first time really facing some adversity,” Smoral said after his spring training workout at the Bobby Mattick Training Center on Tuesday. “I finished up the year strong.

“Going into this year, I’m focusing on doing what I need to do mechanically to repeat my delivery. [I want] to go out with a clear conscience and just compete.”

The Blue Jays have a significant investment in the southpaw, after selecting him in the supplemental first round, 50th overall, in the 2012 amateur draft.

Smoral didn’t pitch in his first year with the organization due to a broken foot that he sustained prior to the draft, so his professional debut didn’t come until last season in the GCL, but the young lefty didn’t use his injury as an excuse for a tough first season.

He figures that having already played one year of pro ball will help him execute more successfully in 2014.

“I don’t think the stress fracture per se had anything to do with it,” Smoral said. “I have one year of professional baseball under my belt now and I know what to expect – some of the ins and outs.”

A great comparison to help take away the worry of Smoral’s rough first season would be veteran big-leaguer Randy Johnson. The former hurler averaged 5.1 walks per nine innings over his first five seasons in the majors.

He improved to 2.34 over his last five seasons. With similar stature and abilities, Smoral can look to Johnson’s career as a model.

Smoral also idolizes MLB southpaws Clayton Kershaw, CC Sabathia and Madison Bumgarner.

Despite his command problems, the 19-year-old struck out 27 batters last year and had a strong finish to the season. Numbers aren’t something Smoral focuses heavily on, however, and he hasn’t set specific statistical standards for the upcoming season.

“I just want to go out and every time I take the mound, be prepared as I possibly can [and] just go out there and compete,” said Smoral.

“You don’t want to get tied up too much in statistical goals as much as just going out with a clear mind and just going out and having fun playing baseball.”