Braun gets night off to rest stiff back

Braun gets night off to rest stiff back

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun missed another start on Wednesday, not with the sore right wrist that sidelined him for back-to-back games over the weekend, but with stiffness in his surgically repaired lower back.

The Brewers anticipated occasional flare-ups after Braun underwent surgery in October for a herniated disk. He missed a handful of games near the end of Spring Training but started 34 of the Brewers' first 40 regular-season games.

"I thought before the season [Braun should be targeted for] 140," manager Craig Counsell said before a game against the Cubs. "So we're right on pace for that. Guys come up with stuff [that keep them out of the lineup]. There's going to be stuff here and there. We're right on schedule to what I was anticipating."

In other medical matters:

Will Smith completed an extended bullpen session as scheduled, marking his third time on the mound since tearing a ligament on the outside of his right knee during Spring Training.

Smith's next step is throwing a live batting practice session on Saturday in New York. If that goes well, he will leave the team next week for a series of outings on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.

"We're not going to put a strict number on it," Counsell said. "But the first couple of times we'll want him to have some days off. We'll want him to go back-to-back. So, it's somewhere in that range."

• Starter Matt Garza (right lat) and reliever Corey Knebel (left oblique) are nearing significant milestones of their own. Garza is scheduled to throw off a mound for the first time on Thursday, and Knebel on Friday.

Because Garza must stretch out to 100 pitches, his process will take significantly longer than Knebel's.

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.