"They're showing more confidence in me every day," Smith said. "Every once in a while, I start shaking, but that's just nerves of the situation. Every time, I feel more confident."
It took a while for that attitude to develop, with the revelation finally coming in a Spring Training game against the Red Sox. After hanging a slider on the inner half to 10-time All-Star Manny Ramirez, Smith cringed, then watched in disbelief as Ramirez harmlessly fouled it off. A small victory, but an immeasurable boost.
"You watch them on SportsCenter, they rip the ball," Smith said. "That's all you see. I feel more confident now that I can throw strikes and big-league hitters are actually going to pop up or ground out."
Mets manager Willie Randolph has confidence, too, constantly tossing his previously untested rookie into the fire. It was an extra-inning stint on Tuesday, following bases-loaded jams last Friday and Saturday. And through it all, Smith remains unscored upon -- now a span of 10 innings to start his career.
"That's the best way to do it," said closer Billy Wagner, the anchor of the 'pen. "You can't sit there and baby him and put him in lopsided games, because then you really can't tell anything about him. You can't help but be happy for him, because he has that poise."
Endy in: Chavez was in the lineup on Wednesday afternoon for his second start of the season, just hours after ending Tuesday night's game in dramatic fashion with a walk-off bunt in the 12th inning. The speedy backup was batting second and playing left field in place of Moises Alou, with normal two-hole hitter Paul Lo Duca receiving a routine day off. Right fielder Shawn Green moved up to take Alou's spot in the lineup, with backup catcher Ramon Castro batting seventh in place of Green.
Chavez went 2-for-5 in his lone other start on the season, mashing a double and a triple. He's batting .417 in 12 at-bats this season, though no hit was as big as the bunt that sent Shea into hysterics on Tuesday. And it made Randolph's decision even easier to give the 40-year-old Alou a routine day off.
"He fights me all the time on off days," Randolph said. "He doesn't want to sit. But because Endy hasn't played a lot, this is a perfect time to get him in the loop."
Free baseball: Tuesday night's extra-inning affair was the first of the season for the Mets, who went 9-5 in 14 extra-inning contests last season. The Mets have now won four straight games decided after the ninth, dating back to last season.
Before Tuesday, the team hadn't won on an extra-inning walk-off hit since last July 26, when Jose Valentin delivered a two-out single to lift the Mets over the Cubs, 1-0 in 10 innings.
Wrighting a wrong David Wright snapped his hitless skid Tuesday, singling in the first inning to end a string of 15 straight empty at-bats. He added another single in the ninth and a walk in the 11th, but perhaps most telling was the fact that he went without a strikeout for the first time in eight games.
"I think he's coming, I think he's almost there," Randolph said. "His mechanics and his approach are conducive for not staying in long slumps. But he has to get back to that approach."
Wright entered Wednesday batting .274 on the season, but remained without a home run.
Relay at Shea: Catcher Paul Lo Duca announced his support for a third annual Relay For Life to back the American Cancer Society of Queens.
Lo Duca lost his mother, Lucy, to ovarian cancer 11 years ago. He hopes to draw 1,000 fans to the May 5 event, which last year raised over $100,000. The Mets will be in Arizona during the event, but they plan to support it from afar.
"This is something that's close to my heart," Lo Duca said. "I wish we could be here, but hopefully we'll get a good turnout."
Linked: Ron Darling made this observation after Chavez dragged a bunt on a nasty, inside slider below his knees Tuesday night.
"That's the same pitch that Mookie jumped away from."
His reference was to the pitch from Red Sox reliever Bob Stanley that nearly hit Mookie Wilson in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Wilson avoided the pitch, it glanced off the mitt of Rich Gedman -- it was ruled a wild pitch, scoring Kevin Mitchell with the tying run and allowing Ray Knight to advance to second. Knight scored on the ensuing error by Bill Buckner.
This date in Mets history -- April 26: The inexplicable happened on this date during a period of years. Tom Seaver started for the Mets on April 26 in 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974 -- four times in a span of five years. He won each time, pitched a complete game each time and never walked a batter. His composite pitching line for the four starts was 36 innings, 24 hits, four runs, all earned, no walks and 25 strikeouts. His ERA: 1.00.
Also on this date, the Mets lost their 1995 Opening Day game to the Rockies, 11-9, at Coors Field. The first game in Coors Field history ended in the 14th inning when Dante Bichette hit a three-run home run off Mike Remlinger. The Mets had taken one-run leads in the 13th and 14th innings on hits by Jose Vizcaino and Joe Orsulak.
Minor League report: Triple-A New Orleans banged out 23 hits in a 17-8 thrashing of Albuquerque on Tuesday night. Outfielder Ricky Ledee led the way with four hits and seven RBIs, while infielders Ruben Gotay and Andy Tracy combined for another nine hits.
Coming up: The Mets have a travel day Thursday before heading to Washington for a three-game weekend set. Oliver Perez is slated to start Friday night's 7:05 ET opener, opposite rookie Matt Chico.