Smith moves rehab to Double-A before return

Brewers expecting reliever back in bigs by series in Philadelphia, beginning Thursday

Smith moves rehab to Double-A before return

MILWAUKEE -- On the heels of a dominant Class A outing, rehabbing Brewers reliever Will Smith was Double-A Biloxi-bound on Friday. It is the final scheduled stop before the left-hander rejoins Milwaukee's stout bullpen.

The Brewers want Smith to test his right knee in back-to-back outings before he rejoins the big league team. Tentatively, he will pitch against Mobile on Sunday, then throw a simulated game on Monday, an off-day for Biloxi.

"He should rejoin us when we go to Philadelphia [beginning Thursday] at the latest," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "If all's good, he'll come back [Tuesday], but he'll need a couple days off."

Smith is attempting a non-surgical comeback for a torn ligament on the outside of his right knee. He has already completed a pair of outings at Class A Advanced Brevard County, including a two-inning scoreless stint on Thursday in which he struck out the side on 10 pitches in his first inning of work, then went 1-2-3 in a second inning on seven more pitches.

Another reliever, Corey Knebel, is nearing a rehab assignment of his own. Knebel, on the DL with a left oblique strain, must first face hitters at Miller Park.

Both Knebel and Smith were slated to fill critical bullpen roles before they were hurt in Spring Training. Other pitchers have ably filled those gaps, and Brewers relievers entered Friday with a 1.52 ERA over the team's last 19 games, the best relief mark in the Majors in that span.

"The bullpen has just been getting outs," Counsell said. "They've taken that kind of mantra from the beginning: Get outs no matter where they are or what the situation is. They've done that the last couple nights, they've done it all year.

"It's good how it's setting up, but there's going to be a big change when Will comes back as far as throwing a big fish into the bullpen. It'll change some of the usage. The thing I know won't change is those guys just care about getting outs whenever they're asked to get them."

Smith pitched in 154 games with the Brewers over the past two seasons. In 2015, he had a 2.70 ERA in 76 games.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for 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.