Mallex Smith (thumb) not expected to rejoin Braves until September

MINNEAPOLIS – The Braves could have pitcher John Gant back in a few weeks, but outfielder Mallex Smith isn’t expected to rejoin the team until early to mid-September.

Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said Smith’s broken thumb is healing, but not fast enough to expect him back before rosters can be expanded in September. Catcher Tyler Flowers (fractured left hand) could beat Smith back to the roster even though Flowers got hurt three weeks later.

“Mallex’s thumb is healing but not quite as fast as they hoped,” Snitker said of the rookie speedster, who had begun to shine before being hit in the thumb by fastball from Mets left-hander Antonio Bastardo on June 19.

Once he gets his cast off, Smith will have to re-strengthen the hand and wrist due to atrophy from wearing a cast for as long as he will have by then. “I don’t look for him before September call-ups, and maybe after that,” Snitker said.

Flowers, also hurt when hit by a pitch, was fitted for a splint instead of a cast and has been able to do more in his rehab work than Smith, who can’t use his left thumb to hit or catch until it heals.

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Gant has been out a month since the rookie right-hander strained an oblique muscle in his left side during a June 27 start. He threw live batting practice over the weekend and will begin a rehab stint expected to include a progression of starts in which he goes three, five and seven innings. Then he’d be evaluated to see if he needed a little more time on rehab or was ready to rejoin the big-league team.

In other injury-rehab news, starting pitcher Williams Perez has been doing some flat-ground throwing but hasn’t been cleared to throw off a mound after straining his rotator cuff a little over a month ago. There’s no timetable for his return.

Reliever Shae Simmons (latissimus dorsi tendinitis) has begun a minor league rehab assignment and his return to the major league club might be at least three weeks away — and that’s if he has no more setbacks. He hasn’t pitched for the Braves since having Tommy John elbow surgery in February 2015.

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