WASHINGTON -- When Mallex Smith fractured his left thumb on June 18, the Braves were hopeful he might return in time to play during the final two weeks of this season. But manager Brian Snitker said there is now a strong possibility the rookie outfielder will not play for Atlanta again before next year.
Smith has not experienced any setbacks, but because the bone has healed slowly, the Braves have to face the reality that there might not be enough time to prepare to play big league games.
"The [bone] has to heal before you can start all that," Snitker said. "It just hasn't healed real fast."
Smith's left hand and wrist have been immobilized by a cast since his thumb was fractured by an Antonio Bastardo pitch nearly two months ago. Even if he is cleared to begin participating in baseball activities within the next couple of weeks, he will need an additional couple weeks to make necessary preparations and strengthen all of the muscles that have atrophied.
Complicating the situation is the fact that the Minor League season will end in early September. There is a chance Triple-A Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi could gain playoff berths. But still, there may not be many opportunities for Smith to play in Minor League rehab games.
Smith, who batted .237/.312/.379 in 58 games with Atlanta this season, is projected to begin the 2017 season as one of Atlanta's starting outfielders. But the Braves will first have to create a spot in their outfield, which now consists of Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis.
• Tyler Flowers, Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino all remain on track to be activated from the disabled list next week. Flowers will begin a rehab assignment with Gwinnett on Saturday and could be back in Atlanta's lineup on Sunday. Teheran will make a rehab start for Gwinnett on Sunday and then possibly rejoin Atlanta's rotation next weekend. Vizcaino could return to Atlanta's bullpen after he makes a rehab appearance for Gwinnett on Tuesday and other for Class A Rome on Thursday.
• Manny Banuelos entered this season as one of Atlanta's top pitching prospects, but lingering elbow issues led the Braves to release the left-hander, who had recently been demoted from Gwinnett to Mississippi. If Banuelos does not land with another team, there is a chance the Braves could take a chance on the possibility that he'll eventually overcome the elbow issues that have plagued him since he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012.
Banuelos' removal from the 40-man roster created a spot for third baseman Kyle Kubitza, who returns to the Braves for the first time since he was traded to the Angels in exchange for Ricardo Sanchez on Jan. 8, 2015. Kubitza hit just .187/.297/.348 at the Triple-A level since the Rangers purchased him from the Angels in June. The Rangers designated Kubitza for assignment earlier this week.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.