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Steven Matz's counterpart, Josh Smith, also is just beginning major-league career

Josh Smith of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in

Josh Smith of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in his major-league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 23, 2015 in Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Justin K. Aller

Reds rookie Josh Smith gave sportsmanlike good wishes to Steven Matz, who will make his major-league debut Sunday.

But Smith, Matz's mound opponent, who made his own debut on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, wants the Stony Brook native to have to wait for that first big-league win.

"You wish him all the best, man," Smith said Friday night. "Just coming from that same situation, it'll be exciting for him. I hope his family's able to be here and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, it's a competition and I want to go out and win."

Smith lasted three innings in his first start, allowing three hits -- including a homer by former Yankee Francisco Cervelli -- and six walks. He struck out three, but only 39 of his 79 pitches were strikes.

His family was on hand and witnessed his first major-league hit, too. The righthanded batter singled to right-center while his father, Fred, and his family were being interviewed on television.

Equal parts nervousness and excitement were to blame for his wildness, he said, and he hopes things will be different against the Mets.

"I feel like I'll be able to slow the game down a little bit and get back to how I pitch," Smith said, adding that major-league hitters are a lot more patient than those he faced in the minors. "I walked six guys; I don't think I've walked six guys in the last three months."

The 27-year-old righthander, who was raised in Florida, has been in the Reds' system since being drafted in 2010. He was a combined 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 13 starts for Triple-A Louisville, Double-A Pensacola and Class A Dayton this season.

Despite the six walks in his debut, Reds manager Bryan Price said Smith usually has strong command of the strike zone. He added that exposure to big-league hitters will teach the 6-2, 220-pounder what he needs to improve.

"He's that guy that didn't come up as a heralded prospect but pitched his way into this opportunity as a guy that comes in, competes and throws strikes," Price said. "He's 89 to 93 with the fastball, two breaking pitches and a changeup. [He] swings the bat well, does a lot of good things, fields his position. There's no reason he shouldn't be in our rotation pitching competitively every fifth day."

It's a goal Smith has been working toward since he started playing baseball at age "5 or 6," he said -- or even earlier if you believe the family legend in which Josh, propped up in a high chair, threw a ball with intent to his dad.

But the major-league dream wasn't always so lucid for Smith, who attended Lipscomb University in Tennessee. After some rough outings in the farm system, he said he spent seven-hour bus rides wondering if the game -- and living on a minor-league salary -- was right for him.

Smith said he took an offseason job building pools -- formerly his high school summer job, too -- to supplement his income.

"I'd carry bricks or lay cement," he said of his early days on the job, which he kept as recently as last year. "As I got older and into pro ball, I learned the whole process of rebuilding a pool or a deck."

Supplemental income won't be a problem if he can stick with the Reds.

"This is the big leagues; everybody's really good," Smith said. "Any given day, anybody can beat anybody. That's the greatness of this game. I'm going to approach them like I approach anybody. I'm going to throw my game and I feel I can get their guys out."


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