Smith makes progress toward return

Smith makes progress toward return

CLEVELAND -- The Indians remain hopeful that right-handed reliever Joe Smith will pitch again for them before season's end, and Smith took an important step toward that goal Tuesday.

For the first time in weeks, Smith, who hasn't pitched in a game since Aug. 29 because of a left-knee injury, threw off a mound. The 25-pitch session went well, and Smith is scheduled to throw again Thursday.

Smith said he's hopeful he can rejoin the Indians by the end of the weekend. Then again, he was also hopeful he'd return during the seven-game road trip to Minneapolis and Oakland. Instead, he was placed on the disabled list and never left Cleveland.

"I was packed [for the trip]," Smith said with a laugh. "But I didn't progress as fast as we thought I would."

As far as the progress of two pitchers coming off surgery is concerned, these were the updates provided by head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff:

Jake Westbrook: A healthy Westbrook might very well be the Tribe's Opening Day starter next season, but that would be his first start in the big leagues since May 2008. Westbrook, recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, is five and a half weeks into a six-week shutdown from throwing that began when he suffered a setback in his rehab.

Westbrook will visit with team medical director Dr. Mark Schickendantz on Wednesday. If he's cleared, he'll begin throwing off flat ground Thursday, Soloff said. After three weeks of long toss, he would progress to three weeks of mound work. At that point, the Indians would make a determination as to whether or not Westbrook is ready to pitch in winter ball.

Jason Knapp: A key acquisition in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Phillies, Knapp had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in New York last week. The 19-year-old Knapp will rehab at the Tribe's complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Though it had been speculated that Knapp might pitch in winter ball, Soloff said Knapp isn't expected to begin throwing again until Spring Training next year.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.