Two weeks into his big league career, Trevor Gott has already seized a key seventh-inning relief role for the Angels, heady stuff for a 22-year-old right-hander who a month ago was pitching in double A.
"They give me all kinds of tips on how to stay calm, how it's just baseball and if you make your pitches, you'll be fine," said Gott, who is armed with a 98-mph fastball, sharp breaking ball and changeup. "It's pretty wild. I watched Huston and Joe growing up, and now I'm in the same bullpen as them."
Smith appreciated the compliment but chafed at the context.
"I'm not old enough to make those kinds of comments about," Smith said with some incredulity. "That shows you more how young he is than how old I am. He's 22."
Gott doesn't act like it, which might impress Street even more than the velocity Gott generates from his smallish 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame.
"What I get excited about with Trevor is his attitude, because there is a distinct maturity there," said Street, who has 295 career saves. "And that's the biggest compliment I can give."
Street and Smith have locked down the ninth and eighth innings for the Angels, save for an occasional glitch, but the seventh has been a trouble spot since Kevin Jepsen was traded to Tampa Bay last winter.
Mike Morin was a strong candidate out of spring training but struggled in April and suffered a rib-cage strain in late May. Fernando Salas has been erratic, Cesar Ramos is more of a left-handed specialist, and Cam Bedrosian has the big arm but not the consistency for the role.
Into this void stepped Gott, the former University of Kentucky closer who was acquired with Street from the San Diego Padres last July.
Gott was called up from triple A on June 13, and in six appearances he has shown the kind of mettle Manager Mike Scioscia is looking for in a seventh-inning man. Gott has given up three hits, struck out four and walked none in six scoreless innings entering Friday night's game against the Seattle Mariners.
"He has a power arm," Scioscia said. "Not only do you see the velocity, you see the life on the ball, the nice action through the zone. It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out because we think he has a chance to be really special."
Gott's Angels debut came in an 8-1 loss to Oakland on June 14, but his next five appearances came in the seventh inning of close games, including Monday night, when he retired the side in order to hold a 3-1 lead against Houston, and a one-two-three outing in Wednesday's 2-1, 13-inning win over the Astros.
Gott has always thrown hard for his age and size, but his fastball jumped from the 93-95-mph range when he was drafted in 2013 to 96-98 mph last summer.
"I don't know any specific reason why," Gott said. "I think it's just growing up, getting stronger and gaining arm strength."
Gott, who is not related to former big league reliever and current Angels roving pitching coordinator Jim Gott, has a slight hesitation in his delivery before exploding toward the plate and drops his arm slot just a few degrees. Both add deception to his pitches.
"People get excited about velocity and stuff, but I've seen plenty of guys come up throwing 98 mph, and plenty of guys not do anything with it," Street said. "Trevor has some deception, which will add to his game. The great ones have great stuff, great deception and a great mental approach. He's already pitched in some big spots and has handled them well."
Smith likes the way Gott is attacking hitters.
"He doesn't look intimidated at all," Smith said. "When a young guy comes up and says, 'Here it is, hit it,' he'll find out right off the bat who can hit him and who can't."
Gott clearly has the stuff to succeed in the big leagues. How he handles failure could determine how long he stays here.
"You're going to hit a rough patch, guys are going to figure you out, you're going to lose your slider, you're going to get unlucky," Street said. "It's that attitude that makes you stick and what allows you to improve over time. I think Trevor has a solid attitude, a humble approach — he wants to get better.
"The gift in the arm is obviously there … but I don't want him to get too excited about being in the big leagues. I want him to take that one-day-at-a-time approach, play for today, and if he can do that, he has all the makings to be a very successful big leaguer for a long time."