Smith could start rehab assignment next week

Smith could start rehab assignment next week

BOSTON -- Red Sox reliever Carson Smith was able to skip a slight step in his rehab program on Thursday, pitching an extended spring camp game in Fort Myers, Fla., instead of a simulated game. Though it was just a subtle difference, it also served as a sign of how swiftly the righty is recovering from a flexor mass strain in his right elbow.

"He's advancing pretty good here," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "The change to a game versus a sim game was because of how well he's responded to the work so far."

Smith will pitch in another extended spring camp game on Saturday, and then the hope is he will start a Minor League rehab assignment at an affiliate early next week.

Since Smith is a short reliever, he shouldn't need that many rehab appearances before re-joining the Red Sox.

The absence of Smith has been noticeable in the bullpen. Koji Uehara had to work eight times in the first 12 games, necessitating a period of rest for the first couple of games of the current series against the Rays.

Worth noting

• Though Christian Vazquez is just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox are pretty confident in his ability to play regularly. For example, the catcher started a day game after a night game on Thursday. Farrell said Vazquez is getting to the point where he could probably catch four days in a row.

• In preparation for next week's two-game series in Atlanta, Red Sox pitchers have been taking extra batting practice. Rick Porcello and David Price are scheduled to pitch the two games in Atlanta. Farrell will look to get David Ortiz one start at first base and get Hanley Ramirez a day off.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.