TONIGHT: Tough times or not, Smith wants ball, which is fine with Oates


Under normal circumstances, the last place that a pitcher on call up from the minors wants to be is on the mound when the parent club is on the skids.

But that's exactly where Roy Smith, who gets the start tonight (7:35, HTS) against Cleveland's Charles Nagy (1-4, 3.92 earned run average) at Memorial Stadium, finds himself: getting a start for a team that has lost five in a row.

The funny thing is that manager John Oates wants him right there, too.

"Roy's the kind of guy who wants to pitch in that kind of situation," said Oates. "That's exactly why we called him up. Some of the younger guys might be affected, but Roy will handle it."

Oates recalled facing Smith, a career minor-leaguer who has tasted the bigs in bite-sized nibbles, when the 29-year-old righthander threw for Triple A Charleston in 1983, while Oates was managing Columbus, the New York Yankees' top farm club.

"He's always been a hard worker. He's not some guy who just came in off the street," said Oates. "He's one of those savvy veterans. You say to yourself, 'Where did you get this guy from?' Next thing you know, he's in the sixth inning."

Smith, who was released by Minnesota after last season, was called up from Rochester last Friday after compiling a 4-2 record and a 2.60 ERA in eight starts. He was the Red Wings' most reliable starter, and will pitch on his normal turn.

However, in his only appearance thus far, Smith faced one batter, the Yankees' Jesse Barfield, Saturday night and gave up a base hit. Barfield later scored the tying run and New York beat the Orioles 6-5.

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