Will Smith rejoins Braves bullpen

Braves reliever Will Smith, who joined Atlanta this offseason,  confers with pitching coach Rick Kranitz during the first workout oft spring Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla.
Braves reliever Will Smith, who joined Atlanta this offseason, confers with pitching coach Rick Kranitz during the first workout oft spring Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

After missing the past month, left-hander Will Smith, the Braves’ prized free-agent addition, will be in the bullpen Thursday night. The team announced he was reinstated from the injured list before its series finale against the Blue Jays.

Smith tested positive for COVID-19 before the team’s first workouts July 3. He was cleared July 26, beginning his own thorough preparation process before rejoining the team. Smith was throwing while away from the team.

Rather than pitch his scheduled simulated game Thursday, the Braves decided Smith might as well appear in the real thing.

“We figured instead of a sim game, we could get him in a real game,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He feels good. He looked good the other day. He was raring to go, so we figured shoot, why not give him a real inning and use what he was going to expend today? I know he’s excited about getting back. A guy with his experience, if he tells us he’s good and ready to go, then I trust him.”

Snitker previously expressed hope that Smith would be ready to pitch in games by the time the Braves started their next road trip. That will be the case: The Braves start their next trip in Philadelphia on Friday night.

Finally, after summer camp and 13 regular-season games, the Braves will have their All-Star lefty available late in games. The 31-year-old is coming off a phenomenal season for the Giants, accumulating a 2.76 ERA and career-high 34 saves in 63 games.

Smith was one of the Braves’ several high-priced free agent acquisitions, though the other two - Marcell Ozuna and Cole Hamels - signed one-year pacts. The Braves committed longer term to Smith when they signed the Georgia native to a three-year deal worth $39 million, with a 2023 club option ($13 million), last November.

Snitker said the team doesn’t have a designated role for Smith. When the team signed him, the Braves said that Mark Melancon, a former teammate of Smith’s, still would be the primary closer. The Braves have a deep bullpen that features multiple pitchers with closer experience, so expect Smith to be used in a variety of ways when he’s implemented.

The Braves designated outfielder Scott Schebler for assignment to open a spot for Smith. Schebler has had only one-at bat since the Braves acquired him from the Reds, going 0-for-1 in Wednesday’s loss to Toronto.

MLB team rosters needed to be reduced from 30 to 28, as part of the sport’s altered 2020 rules. The Braves cut to 28 by optioning reliever Chad Sobotka and catcher Alex Jackson to their alternate training site in Gwinnett.

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