Smith working way back to Astros' bullpen

June 19th, 2018

HOUSTON -- Astros reliever Joe Smith continued his rehab throwing program on Tuesday, playing catch for the second time since hitting the 10-day disabled list on June 10, retroactive to June 7.

Smith has missed 11 of the Astros' past 12 consecutive wins while on the DL with right elbow soreness. Smith, who said he was feeling well following the throwing session, will need to continue to play catch before advancing to throwing off a mound and then to facing hitters.

"I think today was a great step forward," said Astros manager AJ Hinch. "All reports were that he took a good step forward. He put a little extra on his throwing program, which is a good test for him. We'll continue to take a step forward every time we can. If we have no issue, we'll inch toward the mound. Once we get to the mound, we'll get to facing a hitter. So we're on our way."

Smith signed with the Astros as a free agent in December and has a 5.49 ERA in 23 games (19 2/3 innings) this season. Hinch said Smith is "probably a homestand away" from returning to play.

"I feel good right now," Smith said. "If I feel good tomorrow, we'll walk in and play catch again and keep on going. Hopefully I can join this group because they're rolling right now and it seems like a lot of fun."

Without Smith, the Astros have carried a seven-man bullpen for the opening two games of their three-game series against the Rays. The club elected to keep infielder on the 25-man roster and optioned left-handed reliever back to Triple-A Fresno on Monday.

Astros sign 13 Draft picks

The Astros have signed 13 more of their selections from the 2018 Draft, they announced Tuesday. Houston has reeled in 24 of its 40 selections.

Tuesday's signings: RHP R.J. Freure (6th round), OF Scott Schreiber (9th), RHP Brett Conine (11th), SS Trey Dawson (15th), C Alex Holderbach (16th), SS Michael Wielansky (18th), RHP Devin Conn (19th), OF Austin Dennis (20th), LHP Jonathan Bermudez (23rd), RHP Miguel Figueroa (24th), OF Logan Mattix (25th), RHP Joseph Gonzalez (28th) and RHP Riley Cabral (31st).

Draft Tracker: Every Astros pick

Many of the signees have already begun their professional careers at Minor League affiliates.