Will Smith, one of the Royals pitching prospects, didn’t show his potential in Wednesday night’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. Smith pitched three and a third innings, giving up six hits and five runs, all earned, with three of the runs home runs. He struck out one and walked one. Smith left the game with a glittering 13.50 ERA and got the loss. After Smith faced 16 batters, long reliever Luis Mendoza came in to relieve Smith. Honestly, Mendoza should have started the game instead of Smith.
Usually, a debuting pitcher does well against a lineup that hasn’t seen them before. But these are the New York Yankees, and they weren’t fooled B. Smith.
Smith’s start is similar with another Royal pitcher who made their Major League debut at Yankee Stadium. The immortal Eduardo Villacis.
Royals fans remember the right-handed Villacis, but not fondly. It was at a low point in the Royals 2004 season, which was already spiraling out of control. Expectations were high after an 83-79 2003 season, but when Villacis started the May 1 game against the Yankees, the Royals were 7-15 and had lost their last three games.
Villacis was called up from AA Wichita to fill in for the injured Darrell May. Unlike Smith, Villacis wasn’t a prospect. In fact, few Royals fans knew who he was. Most of the Royals players didn’t know him either.
But Villacis could throw strikes, said former General Manager Allard Baird. In his Major League debut, Villacis threw 36 strikes out of 66 pitches, but didn’t strike out anyone and walked four Yankees. He pitched three and a third innings, gave up six hits and five runs, all earned, with a glittering 13.50 ERA and the loss. Just like Will Smith. At least Villacis only gave up one home run compared to Smith’s three home runs. Then again, Smith threw one more strikeout than Villacis.
The 12-4 loss to the Yankees would be Villacis’ only Major League appearance. He was sent back to Wichita and on May 24, 2004 Villacis was claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox. On July 20, 2005 Villacis was released by the White Sox, ending his baseball career.
It’s doubtful Smith will suffer the same fate as Villacis, seeing he’s one of the Royals pitching prospects. But one has to wonder how this will affect Smith’s development. Smith may be sent back to Omaha, or make another start with the Royals. It depends how the Royals view Smith. Does the team consider him a prospect who had a bad debut and will get another Major League start, or a pitcher who needs more seasoning in the minors? With the Royals, it’s hard to say. Just look how they’re handling second baseman, uh, designated hitter Johnny Giavotella.