Travis Smith Still Working To Get Noticed

   VERO BEACH, Fla.-  Travis Smith made his Dodger debut in Thursday's opening exhibition. Not exactly the kind that you speed dial Mom about- four innings, three runs. Still, Smith is grateful that he was able to be out there at all. Last year, he wasn't sure that he'd make it.

   That's when he awakened one morning to find his right arm bent at a peculiar angle. What's more, it seemed locked in place for he was unable to unbend it. Smith had endured Tommy John surgery before but had recovered from that. And now this? "I really didn't think I was going to be able to pitch ever again," he says now.

  It turned out to be bone chips lodged in the elbow. They were cleaned out and the recovery was swift. "Two weeks later, I was able to throw batting practice," he remembers.

He was with the Braves' top farm,  Richmond,  at the time. He was even able to get up to Atlanta for one start- 4.1 innings, four runs (two earned) and back to Richmond. Subsequently, he was traded to the Cardinals who stashed him at their Memphis affiliate for the rest of the year. Then came minor league free agency and the signing with the Dodgers.

  By the way, that was his second sojourn in the Cards system. He was even up with St. Louis for a dozen games in 2002. He had made his big league debut in 1998 with Milwaukee only to have the first bout of elbow problems that resulted in the Tommy John procedure.

   He's kicked around a lot since then including a stint with the Marlins in 2005. In all, he's 42 games in the big leagues and of course is primed for more. That's why he's here.

  You take a look at Smith's 5-10, 160-pound frame and think he probably isn't a flame thrower in the Puff the Magic Dragon mode and you'd be right. No, he lives and dies with his sinker, hoping for that ground ball. It's been plenty good enough to keep him gainfully employed in situational relief.

That of course is what he's trying to show the Dodgers he's still capable of doing. He's 34 now and has been in pro ball since 1995. Born in Ohio, he grew up in Oregon and attended college at Texas Tech so he's been there, done that.

  The Dodgers are seeing if he's worth stashing at Las Vegas for possible use in an emergency. After last year's scare, he's happy to get the chance.

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