CLEVELAND -- Indians right-hander Joe Smith battled a viral infection and an index finger injury in Spring Training and a right rotator cuff strain in April and May. Just when he thought he was out of the woods, along came a tweaked left knee that has left him sidelined for the past week. Manager Eric Wedge revealed Tuesday that Smith hasn't been available out of the bullpen for a while because of the knee injury, which, to Smith, is still something of a mystery. The right-handed Smith, who last pitched Aug. 29 in Baltimore, doesn't know exactly how he hurt the knee, but his best guess is that the injury occurred when he missed a step walking down the stairs at home.
"That's the only thing I can point to," Smith said. Smith, who has a 3.44 ERA in 37 appearances this season, said he tore his posterior cruciate ligament in his knee in 2005, and that allows his knee to slide with the slightest misstep. He's basically been shut down the past week, but he was able to play catch Tuesday and is expecting to do so again Wednesday. He said he is confident he will pitch again this season. "I'm pushing pretty hard," he said. "I'm getting better every day. I'm hoping to be back by next week." Smith would like a happy ending to this season, because so much has gone wrong. The illness in Spring Training set him back, and the shoulder problem landed him on the disabled list from May 2-June 9. When he finally got fully healthy, he began to emerge as one of Wedge's go-to options in the back end of the bullpen. Of his past 16 appearances, 14 were scoreless, as he allowed three runs on 11 hits over 14 1/3 innings. Now this. "It's been a good year," he said sarcastically. "Hopefully I'll get back and help them out. This is the most time I've missed in any season in my life."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.