Young phenom to pitch for Fort Myers on Saturday
By David Dorsey
Fort Myers News Press
The hard-throwing Dutchman has baffled hitters throughout the lower minor league baseball levels over the past four years, growing into a 21-year-old, burgeoning phenom.
Alexander Smit, a left-handed hurler from Holland, will join the Fort Myers Miracle pitching rotation this season. He will do so after joining the Minnesota Twins’ organization as a 16-year-old in 2002.
The Miracle open the Florida State League season tonight at 7:05 against the Sarasota Reds.
Smit will make his first start Saturday night when the Miracle return to Sarasota after opening the season at home Friday night at Hammond Stadium against the Reds.
The back-and-forth I-75 series allows both teams to sleep in their own beds each night.
Smit put opposing batters to rest throughout last season. He compiled a 7-2 record and 2.99 ERA for low-Class A Beloit. He allowed opposing hitters a .199 batting average.
“He’s left-handed, and he’s tough to pick up,” Miracle pitching coach Eric Rasmussen said.
“He needs a couple of different speeds on his fastball. We’ll see how he does now. He does strike ’em out.”
The Twins discovered Smit in 2002, when Smit played for the Dutch under-15 team, preferring baseball over the more mainstream sport of soccer.
“He hides the ball a little bit,” Miracle manager Kevin Boles said. “His fastball has some movement. Left-handed pitchers, they’re at a premium. His stuff stays in the strike zone.
“Alexander Smit has come a long way. He plays stronger. He has a better mound presence.”
Smit has piled up the strikeouts. He struck out 141 batters in 108 1/3 innings last season. He has totaled 364 strikeouts in 270 minor-league innings.
The Twins protected Smit by placing him on their 40-man roster during the offseason. Had they not, other teams could have taken Smit in the Rule V Draft.
“They called me up on Holland, actually,” Smit said of learning he had made the 40-man roster. “I was pretty happy. It was a good feeling to be on there.”
Invited to big-league spring training for the first time, Smit gave up two hits and one run in one appearance.
“He signed so young,” said Fort Myers resident Bert Blyleven, who was born in Holland and raised in California.
Blyleven compiled 3,701 strikeouts over 22 seasons with the Minnesota Twins and three other teams. He has taken an interest in Smit over the past few spring trainings.
“With him coming to major league camp, you feel like he’s progressing,” Blyleven said. “He’s a hard worker.”
Said Smit of Blyleven: “He’s a real good guy. He knows so much about baseball.”
Smit hopes to someday know the experience of playing in the big leagues, like his fellow countryman.
“I love America,” Smith said, “and I love baseball.”