Smith optimistic he won't need knee surgery

Reliever making progress in rehab, but Brewers will 'proceed with caution'

Smith optimistic he won't need knee surgery

CINCINNATI -- Six weeks into his rehab from a freak knee injury, Brewers reliever Will Smith is confident he won't need surgery for a torn lateral collateral ligament.

"One hundred percent [confident]," Smith said. "We haven't even talked about that. We haven't even said the 'S' word."

Thursday marked exactly six weeks since Smith tore the ligament on the outside of his right knee while pulling off his shoe. He celebrated by participating in a series of agility drills for the first time in the outfield at Great American Ball Park.

Officially, Smith has hurdles yet to clear before he's free of the specter of surgery. But it appears increasingly possible he will be able to return to the mound for the Brewers, who planned to use Smith as a co-closer out of Spring Training without a procedure to repair his LCL.

Because that particular ligament bears a much lighter load than others in the knee, it is possible for athletes in various sports to play with no limitations following a tear.

"I'm optimistic, yeah," manager Craig Counsell said. "Almost every day, it's been a positive step. He's pushing hard. He's not on the mound yet, he has not fielded his position, so he has not tested it completely. But he's making progress toward that, and quick progress.

"It's all good news. I think the thought was when we put this [six-week] mark on that, there would be symptoms that would tell him, 'no.' There hasn't been symptoms. We'll still proceed with caution until he's out there pitching every day."

In other injury news
• Second baseman Scooter Gennett, on the disabled list with a strained oblique, rejoined the "general population" Friday by taking batting practice and fielding ground balls for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 28.

He will repeat the process for several days, and, barring a setback, could join advanced Class A Advanced Brevard County for a Minor League rehabilitation assignment next week. It would be an easy commute, since the Brewers are in Miami from Monday to Wednesday.

• Right fielder Domingo Santana was out of the lineup for the fourth time in five games, but he reported improvement in his sore right shoulder. The pain is in the front of the joint, Santana said Friday, correcting earlier reports.

"I don't know how much longer," Santana said. "I'm just following the program. The challenge is when it's cold, and I have to go in and warm up again."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.