This isn’t the first time that Smith has dealt with elbow problems this spring. In fact, it’s not the first time that he required an MRI this spring, though the first one did come back clean. Smith missed quite a bit of time last year, though that occurred due to a knee injury.
Still, the fact that Smith is again dealing with discomfort isn’t a great sign. And as Pavlovic notes, it make it rather unlikely that the southpaw reliever will be ready for Opening Day, as his prior issue delayed his progression. In fact, today’s appearance was just his second of the spring.
San Francisco added Smith at last year’s trade deadline, giving up righty Phil Bickford and catcher Andrew Susac to control Smith through 2019 via arbitration. The club is paying him $2.5MM this year; Smith earned $1.475MM in 2015 as a Super Two.
Upon joining the Giants, Smith threw 18 1/3 innings of 2.95 ERA ball with 12.8 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9. He has largely produced quality results ever since a poor rookie stint as a starter. Over the course of the 2016 campaign, though, Smith averaged just 91.9 mph with his four-seamer, about a mile and a half below his prior two seasons. He also dipped to an 11.5% swinging-strike rate after posting a career-best 15.2% rate in the prior year.
While a setback at this time is obviously disappointing, there is a clear glimmer of hope here. Smith reported only similar discomfort to what he had experienced previously, and didn’t experience a “pop.” (Via Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle; Twitter links.) The lefty says he hopes it’s just a continuation of that prior issue, adding that he’s “trying not to panic.”
For the Giants, there also now seems likely to be an extra spot open in the Opening Day bullpen. According to Pavlovic, it’s likely that Josh Osich and Steven Okert would both take roster spots, though he adds that Ty Blach could also shift to the pen. Other possible competitors include Michael Roth and Kraig Sitton, notes Pavlovic, while veteran minor-league signee Matt Reynolds is also in camp.