Smith throws off mound for 1st time since injury

May 13th, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- His audience amounted to a few dozen fans munching hamburgers in the restaurant overlooking the bullpen at Miller Park, but that didn't matter to reliever Will Smith, who emerged from his first mound session in months as though he had just recorded the final out of the World Series.

Smith threw 25 pitches off the bullpen mound in his most significant test since tearing his LCL -- a ligament on the outside of his right knee -- while taking off his shoe following a Spring Training outing in late March. The Brewers remain hopeful that he will be able to return to active duty without undergoing surgery.

"Started off maybe 60, 70 percent to begin with, and then once I got a sweat going, we kind of opened it up," Smith said. "Everything was there. The command was just a little off, which I assumed would happen. But my last four or five were really good. I think my last four or five pitches could have been thrown in a Major League Baseball game. The hitters will let me know that when I get back out there."

With Smith back on the mound, the Brewers can map out a schedule of increased activity leading to a Minor League rehab assignment. Smith could not say on Friday when that might be, but it typically takes pitchers at least two weeks to get ready for games.

Smith has worn a moveable brace on his knee during all of his throwing sessions, including Friday's. He expects to wear some kind of brace all season.

"The only thing that's reminding me now I'm hurt is when I look down and see this brace on my knee," he said. "Walking around, I feel fine."

Before his freak injury, Smith was expected to share closer duties with Jeremy Jeffress. After leading the Majors in appearances in 2014 with 78, he pitched in 76 games last season, and had a 2.70 ERA.

"It's a milestone in a rehab setting, so it's a big day for Will," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It's a big step forward, where you feel like you're 'in your office,' so to speak. It's a good day for him. He's getting close."

Two other pitchers are close behind. Reliever Corey Knebel (oblique) and starter Matt Garza (lat) each played catch on Friday and have mound sessions in sight, Counsell said.

"It's on their calendar, certainly," Counsell said, "but I think we're still more than a week away."