In Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Romeo famously asks, “What’s in a name?” The PawSox and Josh Smith may just have the answer…
There’s a baseball adage where allegedly, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.
Fans who purchased a scorecard at McCoy Stadium on consecutive days recently may dispute such a claim. Those who heeded the traditional cry of scorecard vendors upon passing through the turnstiles probably did a double take when reading it, shaking their heads in disbelief.
Was it a printing oversight? There’s no way possible that two players with the exact same name could be listed on the same Pawtucket Red Sox roster. Correct?
Don’t worry, your eyes weren’t playing tricks on you. The PawSox do indeed have the baseball market cornered when it comes to featuring two pitchers bound together by a common thread.
Josh Smith, meet … Josh Smith.
“Never seen that one before … two guys with the same name on the same club,” PawSox manager Kevin Boles said.
What makes this particular tale of identity so novel is that Pawtucket sent one of their Josh Smiths to the mound last Saturday and the other pitched the following day. If the fans were scratching their heads, you have to wonder what the mood was like in the Indianapolis Indians dugout. Didn’t we just face this guy last night?
In an effort to alleviate the confusion, let’s crack the code and illustrate why each Josh Smith is easily distinguishable. For starters, one is a lefty while the other throws the baseball with his right hand. The southpaw version of Josh Smith wears No. 37 and is clean shaven, while his righty counterpart has No. 39 on the back of his jersey and sports a beard.
The lefty’s middle name is Dwayne. For the rest of the article, he’ll be referred to as Josh D. Smith. The righty’s middle name is Allen, thus he’ll be known as Josh A. Smith.
Such nuggets should help bring clarity to the paying customers, yet how does the PawSox clubhouse differentiate between one Josh Smith from the other? Surely, you can’t say, “Josh come here.” Thankfully, Pawtucket pitching coach Kevin Walker has a smooth-as-silk method that cuts right through the confusion. Walker is in his second year working with Josh D. Smith while Josh A. Smith isn’t even a full week into his PawSox tenure.
“I call the lefty ‘Smitty’ and the righty ‘Josh.’ That’s the way to do it right now,” Walker said. “It’s very easy for me. I have no problem with it.”
Josh A. Smith was assigned to the PawSox last Friday after signing a minor-league deal with the Boston Red Sox on May 16. The 30-year-old does have just over a year of Major League service time coming with the Cincinnati Reds and the Oakland Athletics. He opened the 2018 season with Triple-A Tacoma before getting released by the Seattle Mariners on April 24.
In his PawSox debut last Saturday, Josh A. Smith looked the part of a pitcher who hadn’t pitched in a competitive setting in nearly two months. He lasted just 2.2 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits. Prior to joining Pawtucket, Josh A. was working out at the Red Sox’ extended spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla. The 30-year-old was in the process of getting stretched back out as a starter when Boston elected to speed up his timetable due to injuries and call-ups.
“Josh A. or Josh righty,” said Josh A. Smith when asked for his take on the best way to approach the PawSox tale of two Josh Smiths. “It’s definitely different.”
Entering Wednesday, Josh D. Smith has made four starts and eight relief appearances for the 2018 PawSox. One of those outings out of the bullpen came this past Sunday, which saw the 28-year-old follow Tyler Thornburg after the rehabbing reliever started the game and tossed one inning. Josh D. Smith demonstrated how piggyback works in minor-league baseball. The lefty Smith stymied the Indianapolis bats with 4.1 innings of one-run and one-hit ball with seven strikeouts.
“It’s one of those things where if you play long enough, weird things are going to happen,” Josh D. Smith said. “Some guys in the clubhouse are having fun with having two Josh Smiths.”
When two International League ballclubs with National League ties meet up, both teams’ pitchers must bat. In 2016 when Josh D. Smith was with Indianapolis (Pittsburgh) and Josh A. Smith was with Louisville (Cincinnati), a pitcher vs. batter episode between the pair nearly came to fruition. An Indianapolis starter was pulled from the game early after learning that his services were needed by Pittsburgh. In came Josh D. Smith, but when his spot in the lineup came up, the Indians elected to send up a pinch hitter with Josh A. Smith pitching at the time for Louisville.
“I remember thinking, ‘That would be weird’ but it didn’t end up happening,” Josh A. Smith said. “We’ve played against each other before, but being on the same team is definitely different.”
“I think I was still in the dugout when I got pulled,” Josh D. Smith recalled. “That would have been kind of cool.”
Going down the line, if one of the Josh Smiths is assigned to the Pawtucket bullpen while the other remains in the starting rotation, imagine the scene should Josh A. follow Josh D. to the bump or vice versa.
“That could be very interesting,” Josh A. Smith said.
Fingers crossed that such a scenario doesn’t prove confusing to those in attendance.