FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was far from the worst-case scenario that they had dreaded, but the news on reliever Carson Smith was still bracing Tuesday.
Manager John Farrell told reporters following the Red Sox' 3-0 loss to the Miami Marlins that an MRI performer Tuesday morning revealed a strained flexor mass in the right forearm.
The setback means that Smith, obtained in a trade with the Seattle Mariners last December and expected to be a key late-inning bullpen option for the Red Sox, will begin the season on the DL.
Farrell didn't offer a timetable for Smith's return, but said the pitcher is expected to pitch again this season. Former Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller experienced a similar injury last year and was lost for a month.
Mat Latos and Homer Bailey also had the same issue in 2014 and missed about two months each.
Such a timetable means Smith could return the mound anywhere from late April to late May.
"We have to let it calm down," manager John Farrell told reporters in Jupiter. "There's no throwing schedule in place yet. We have to get a few days of treatment just to see how he comes through that. But no timeline on putting a ball back in his hand.
"This is a little bit of a setback, given the time of camp we're in, and that's why it's likely he begins the year on the DL. We want to make sure when we build him back up we're taking it at an appropriate pace."
Still, the news could have been far worse. At times, forearm tightness is an indicator of a torn ligament of the elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery with a recover time of 12-18 months. The MRI revealed that Smith's elbow is structurally sound.
Smith left the game against St. Louis after a handful of pitches Monday in Jupiter, bothered by some tightness in his right forearm. As a precaution, he was taken out of the game and returned to Fort Myers, where he was examined Monday evening.
The reliever left the Red Sox clubhouse Tuesday and was set to undergo an MRI, according to manager John Farrell.
"(I don't have) much of an update,'' said Smith Monday morning before the diagnosis was made. "Saw the doctor when I got back (Monday). Everything checked out pretty positive, and pretty good, so I'm undergoing a few more tests and we'll see where we are from there.''
Smith was examined by Dr. Peter Asnis, the team's orthropedist, who applied pressure to the right arm and had Smith stretch the the arm - "typical stuff that they would do testing for forearm tightness.''
A day after leaving the mound in the middle of an inning, Smith said Tuesday morning the arm "feels alright. It doesn't feel too bad, so I'm relieved a little bit. So where we'll see where it goes. It's pretty close to normal. I can't say it's normal, but it's feeling better.''
Following the preliminary examination, Smith said he felt a little better about the situation.
"A little better,'' he said. "Obviously, I want to be dressed out, stretching with the rest of the guys. Until I'm able to do that, I'm not going to say I'm feeling great about it.”