SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Seth Smith is looking for an opportunity to play every day with the Oakland A's. A left-handed hitter with a sweet swing, he just wants a chance to play regularly against left-handed pitchers.Considering the A's crowded outfield and designated-hitter situation, manager Bob Melvin couldn't guarantee that Smith would get it. After all, since the trade that brought Smith from the Rockies for two pitchers on Jan. 16, the A's have signed Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Ramirez. Then add Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick to the mix. "I would say Smith would rotate in [the outfield]," Melvin said before the A's defeated the Rockies, 6-4, on Friday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "Depending on where we are with Cespedes at the end of the spring, it's either going to be outfield or DH for Smith. I can't project out how many games he'll play right now. We'll see where we are with Manny down the road, so there are a lot of moving parts." Smith, who missed Friday's game against his former team because of a stiff back, has been there before. His career stats don't belie the one-dimensional way he is used. Lifetime, he's a .290 hitter against right-handers and a .202 hitter against left-handers. Of course, he has 1,210 plate appearances against right-handers and only 210 against left-handers in just over three full big league seasons.
So in some ways, how he's used has been a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's hard to get better in certain situations if you don't play."He's a left-handed bat, and it's a pretty darned good one," Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who managed Smith the past few seasons, said on Friday. "He was better in 2009 against lefties than he was in 2010 and 2011. That's what I saw. Look, it takes a couple of left-handers to pitch you tough and then your swing is altered. That was something that, at times, went through our heads. But against right-handers, he was a terrific player." Smith tries not to worry about it. He knows the score. In 2011, he batted .299 against righties and .217 against lefties. In '10 he was even worse, hitting .154 against southpaws. Tracy was on the mark about 2009: Smith hit .259 vs. lefties.
A deeply religious man, Smith said he tries to block out what he can't control, but he knows why he became expendable.The trade from Colorado for pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman gave the Rockies two guys who right now are competing for the big league rotation. "It's a business and things happen," Smith said. "So nothing should surprise anyone. People build their organizations the way they feel is best for them. That's how I see it, and I really have no say in it." Smith certainly would like to settle in. The Rockies had a disappointing 2011 season and made numerous roster changes, beginning with the trade that sent All-Star pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland at last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline. The A's have also been in flux, as they work toward a possible relocation of the club from Oakland to San Jose, a move that has been studied by a Major League Baseball committee for almost three years. It was like a tale of two offseasons for the A's, who shed pitchers Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez in trades before bringing back Crisp and signing Bartolo Colon, Ramirez and Cespedes. Melvin said that just because he doesn't have a definitive role yet for Smith, it doesn't mean the A's aren't going to fully utilize him. "We traded two pretty good pitchers for him, so he's going to be a big part of this team," Melvin said. "He's a good hitter, and we feel that [at 29], he's at a point of his career where we're going to see an upswing as well with some more consistent at-bats. He's got some power. You look at his swing, he's got one of the best swings we have out here. He's a professional hitter." Melvin said Smith's back flared up Thursday, and he was scratched from Friday's game as a precautionary measure. Even though Smith was ready to go, given how early it is in Spring Training, Melvin thought it was wise to push him back a day. He's expected to be in the lineup and in left field on Saturday against the Reds at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the same day that the Cuban-born Cespedes makes his A's debut right next to him in center. These are the better days to come. "This new environment hasn't been an adjustment for me, really," Smith said. "I just have to go out there, try and get better and get ready for the season. I just want to be full speed once the season starts."
Barry M. Bloom a> is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.