Going into the season the one thing I was absolutely confident about was the Brewers bullpen. I think I could have very easily made an argument that it was the most underrated bullpen in baseball. Should the top five relievers pitch an entire season to their talent level I think we're easily talking top ten in baseball. So of course about a week before the season started the Brewers lost about five relievers to injuries of varying levels of severity. The biggest hit to the pen was when Will Smith tore a ligament in his knee.
In what has been much publicized by now, towards the end of spring training Smith tore the LCL in his right knee in a freak accident while attempting to remove a shoe. The good news was that there would be a chance for him to attempt rehabbing the injury, possibly allowing him to return to action in 2016. That's not a guarantee though, and if he does require surgery he'll be out the entire year. The latest on the situation is more good news.
Adam McCavly of MLB.com reports that Will Smith has begun jogging on an anti-gravity treadmill as part of the next step in his endeavor to rehab his injury. Again, this does not mean a return in 2016 is guaranteed. But it's a positive sign. Furthermore, McCavly notes that the plan was for Smith to go through four weeks of rehab before reassessing the surgical option. We're currently in the third week. So we should get more detailed news in about two weeks.
In his stead, Jeremy Jeffress has taken on full time closing duties--excelling in three opportunities thus far. However the original plan was for he and Smith to share duties. It will be interesting to see what happens if and when the lefty returns. I expect Jeffress to continue pitching well. Will he be allowed to continue as the sole closer or will Craig Counsell allow some opportunities for Smith to rack up the saves. Trade value is a consideration for both players.
The best case scenario sees Will Smith return this year, pitches well, and makes the decisions difficult on Counsell. But we still have a couple of weeks at least until we learn if he'll need surgery or not. And then we might be looking at the full 30 day rehab assignment in the minors before he's back with the Brewers. So we might not see Smith again until June. But that's better than not seeing him until April 2017. So fingers crossed everyone!