The hits keep on coming for the Milwaukee Brewers, and the club may now have seen its most impactful injury of the spring. Lefty Will Smith was scratched from a game two nights ago after experiencing knee soreness and swelling and was examined by team doctors on Friday. According to Adam McCalvy of Brewers.com, the results were not good news.
Brewers DL to grow again: Will Smith has a torn LCL in his right knee and may face surgery. Was hurt in the clubhouse pulling off his shoe.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) March 26, 2016
The lateral collateral ligament is on the outside of the knee, and the fact that Smith hurt himself doing something as simple as removing his shoe in the clubhouse is even more salt on the wound. Smith was on crutches and wearing a knee immobilizer when he told Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel that "it could be surgery or it could be just a rehab thing. We're waiting on Dr. (William) Raasch to see me and let me know."
Whether he can rehab the injury or if he ultimately needs surgery, this injury will take Smith out of the mix for the Opening Day bullpen. Smith was enjoying a stellar camp to this point, having thrown 7.0 scoreless innings with just two hits and one walk allowed against five strikeouts. He was slated to share ninth innings duties with right hander Jeremy Jeffress, with manager Craig Counsell able to choose based on lefty-righty matchups.
That means that now the role of closer would seem to fall to Jeffress by default. The hard throwing righty got off to a late start this spring but has thrown three scoreless innings with three strikeouts so far. Jeffress and Smith are close friends in the clubhouse, and Jeffress had this to say regarding picking up the slack that Smith leaves:
More Jeffress on Smith’s injury: "(My) dream is to be a full-time closer, but I don't want the job this way. For sure."— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 26, 2016
Smith now becomes the fifth Opening Day hopeful to fall victim to injury this spring and who will begin the on the disabled list. He joins LHP Sean Nolin, RHP Yhonathan Barrios, Rule 5 Pick RHP Zack Jones, and outfielder Rymer Liriano as those will have to wait to make their regular season debuts.
With Opening Day now just nine days away, Smith's absence leaves Ariel Pena, David Goforth, Tyler Cravy, Chris Capuano, Blaine Boyer, and Franklin Morales left in camp competing for three open spots in the bullpen.
Statistics courtesy of Brewers.com