4:31pm: Houston’s proceeding as if it won’t have Smith this season, according to manager Dusty Baker (Twitter link via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com). “He’s welcome to come back,” Baker said. “Right now, we plan to go without Joe.”
7:27am: The Astros have placed reliever Joe Smith on the restricted list, Mark Berman of FOX 26 reports on Twitter. Smith has not yet reported to camp, citing health and safety concerns relating to his family, though it is not yet clear whether he will formally opt out of the season.
The defending American League champs are facing a few pitching challenges. Reliever Josh James was only able to arrive yesterday. Starter Jose Urquidy has yet to report, joining young slugger Yordan Alvarez in that regard. Those players’ precise situations aren’t known.
Smith, 35, had been a key part of the Houston relief corps. The club called upon him four times apiece in last year’s ALCS and World Series. He missed time with injury in 2019 but worked to a 1.80 ERA in his 25 appearances.
If Smith does not end up playing for the ’Stros this year, the team would save the pro-rated portion of his $4MM salary. He inked a two-year, $8MM pact in advance of the 2020 campaign.
*The original version of this story reflected since-withdrawn reporting by Jim Bowden of The Athletic (via Twitter) suggesting Smith had decided to opt out.