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Smyly once again making strong case for rotation

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- For the second straight year, Drew Smyly has bolstered his case for making the roster with a solid start to his spring. Yet after a year in the big leagues, he's a different pitcher than the rookie who beat opponents last spring to beat out Jacob Turner, Andy Oliver and others for the job of fifth starter.

Smyly's three perfect innings on Saturday told just part of the story. His mix of changeups and curveballs was more of a priority for him, and more important for his coaches to see.

"Last year, if I was down in the count and they called a changeup, I didn't want to throw it, because I didn't want to go to 3-0 or 3-1, or whatever it was," Smyly said. "So I'd shake it off. Especially in the spring, it's good to throw those pitches now so you can build your confidence on it."

Smyly estimates that he threw about a half-dozen changeups among his 47 pitches. Not all of them worked well, but they set up other pitches.

"Called a lot of changeups today, a lot of curveballs, just to make him throw it," catcher Alex Avila said, "because sometimes when you're throwing only two, three innings, sometimes you may not need those pitches, but you just make sure you get them in there even if you're not going to throw them in that particular situation [in the regular season]."

Smyly's two strikeouts came consecutively. He used a 1-2 curveball to strike out Matt Hague swinging to lead off the second inning, then went to a full count on Travis Snider before spotting a fastball for a called third strike.

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