BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU baseball player Josh Smith’s long road to recovery just got a little bit longer.
Smith, who hasn’t played since the opening weekend of the 2018 season with a stress reaction in his back, was hoping to return for the Tigers on Friday for Game 1 of an SEC weekend series against Tennessee. But Smith fell victim to a setback in rehab on Monday, delaying his return and making him unavailable for the upcoming series, LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri announced on Thursday.
“Man, everything was moving in the right direction,” Mainieri said. “Everything was great. He felt great over in College Station. We kind of got after it on Monday. About 50 ground balls. Looked tremendous. Then he went inside to get a drink and he was going to come back out to face live and his back tightened up.”
As Mainieri explained, Smith’s setback came off the field. After fielding ground balls, Smith’s back spasmed when he went to take a rest. The spasm left Smith sore enough that he underwent an MRI on Wednesday to see if he re-injured the back. Mainieri and Smith received the results Thursday and the MRI showed Smith has fully healed from the injury.
Structurally, Smith is fine. But having missed two months of activity, his back muscles are out of shape and aren’t used to exertion, causing the muscle soreness.
“I think the long-term forecast is really good,” Mainieri said. “But we weren’t able to give him any live pitching. And even today, his back is still really sore. Not as bad as it was on Monday. But he won’t be ready to play this weekend. I don’t even want to forecast a new target date. We’ll see how the treatment goes. Mentally, though, it’s good to know that it should heal with time.”
A sophomore who played at Catholic High in Baton Rouge, Smith started at shortstop in LSU baseball’s first three games of the season against Notre Dame. He batted 2 for 9 with a home run and 4 RBI, the home run representing the go-ahead runs to lead LSU to victory on opening night. As a freshman in 2017, Smith batted .281 with 52 runs scored and 48 RBI in 72 games. For his efforts, Smith was named to the SEC All-Freshman team and the SEC All-Defensive team as a third baseman.