FAYETTEVILLE -- Drew Smyly couldn't help but have mixed feelings after being traded by the Detroit Tigers to the Tampa Bay Rays.
"Yeah, Tampa is excited to have me, so I'm excited to be there," the former Arkansas Razorback out of Little Rock Central told reporters Thursday in the clubhouse at Comerica Park about an hour after the deal was completed just ahead of the 3 p.m. Central trading deadline. "A team that wants you is always nice.
"But this is all I know, so it sucks leaving."
Smyly, 25, was busy pitching Thursday, going five innings and getting a no-decision in the Tigers' 7-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox, when the trade that brought Tampa Bay's David Price -- the 2012 Cy Young Award winner -- to Detroit was being finalized.
At least Smyly didn't have to leave while he was on the field, which happened to Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson, who went to Seattle as part of the three-team trade.
"I had no idea that this was coming before I came out of the game today," Smyly said. "I wasn't even really thinking about it."
Those closest to Smyly were hearing about it before it was confirmed to him by Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski.
"My parents and friends were blowing up my phone, saying 'I think you're going to get traded,' " Smyly said. "I was, 'I don't know what you're talking about.' Sure enough, 15 minutes later it happened. Dombrowski called me and told me.
"I get what they're trying to do, Price is outstanding, so hopefully it will help them."
Smyly, a left-hander, was in this third season playing for the Tigers after being a second-round draft pick in 2010. He spent parts of just two seasons in the minor leagues before making the Detroit roster and helping the team win American League Central division titles in 2012 and 2013, pitching as a starter and a reliever.
Smyly returned to the starting rotation this season after pitching in relief early because the Tigers had several games postponed by weather. He is 6-9 with a 3.93 earned run average in 21 games, including 18 starts.
Smyly was 16-12 in his Tigers career with 2 saves and a 3.53 ERA in 107 games with 36 starts. He had 264 strikeouts with 81 walks in 280 2/3 innings. In 10 postseason games as a reliever, he had a 2.52 ERA.
In addition to Smyly's pitching stats, what makes him attractive to the budget-conscious Rays is that he has a $520,000 salary this season and isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season. He will be eligible for arbitration in 2015.
"We feel he'll slot in really well with our other four guys and allow us to continue to have our rotation be a strength for us," Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay's executive vice president of baseball operations, told reporters after the trade.
Smyly is expected to make his first start for the Rays on Tuesday night in Oakland.
"There's a lot to like about him," Rays Manager Joe Maddon told reporters. "I'm eager to pop him in the rotation. Don't expect a David-like performance yet, but this guy can also be very good."
Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, who is from Pine Bluff, told reporters it was tough to see Smyly and Jackson traded.
"I don't think people understand that we have relationships and we're friends, we're family," Hunter said. "To see our family members go, it's tough. We're human."
While the Rays are in rebuilding mode with a 53-55 record after winning 90 or more games each of the previous four seasons, the Tigers are going for their fourth consecutive division title in a drive to win their first World Series since 1984.
"I didn't want to leave here," Smyly said. "These guys are awesome and we have a great team, a winning team, so it's hard to say goodbye."
Sports on 08/02/2014
Print Headline: Smyly: Deal was surprising to him