SAN FRANCISCO -- Will Smith is generally in a good mood, but the smile was a bit bigger as reporters surrounded his locker on Monday afternoon.
Smith has spent the last couple of weeks in the minor leagues but the long recovery from Tommy John surgery is nearly over. He will pitch in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, clearing the final hurdle in his rehab schedule. He will then pitch on Sunday. After that ...
"May 1. May 1, yeah," he said. "May 1."
That's the target date the Giants identified long ago and Smith is on track to be activated that day after missing all of last season and the first month of this one. In five rehab appearances, he has struck out nine over 4 2/3 innings. The reports on his velocity are good and he said his arm feels great.
"As long as these next outings go well we'll be back up here," he said. "It feels good. It feels really good. It's nice to be back under the lights again."
It's easy to forget now, but the Giants paid a steep price in prospects to acquire Smith at the 2016 deadline, hoping he would become a key part of the bullpen. He closed that season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances before contributing to the troubles in Game 4 of the NLDS.
If Smith is back to form, the Giants would have one of the better left-handed combinations in the game. Tony Watson has been the best pitcher in the bullpen, and Bochy said he'll appreciate having the flexibility to use Smith or Watson in different roles. It's possible that Smith's presence could allow Watson to enter in the seventh to face a tough lefty like Cody Bellinger or Bryce Harper.
Having both also will allow Bochy to have a reliable lefty for the eighth every night of the week. There have been times this season where he has been worried about overusing Watson.
--- Elsewhere in the bullpen, Mark Melancon will play catch on Thursday. Melancon has not thrown since being shut down at the end of spring training and he had an injection in his pronator nearly two weeks ago to try and eliminate persistent irritation.
--- Brandon Belt said he did not watch the full 12-minute version of his epic at-bat Sunday.
"I have too much stuff to do," he said.
He did, however, watch the sped-up replay.