Angels’ Smith Injures His Knee While Hunting


Angel closer Lee Smith underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after an off-season hunting accident and might not be able to pitch until the second half of spring training, a potentially huge setback for the Angel bullpen.

Brian David, Smith’s agent, and Bessie Smith, his mother, confirmed the right-hander had surgery on his right knee in late November, though neither would say how Smith was injured.

But team sources confirmed Smith, 38, slipped in a hole while hunting near his Castor, La., home and tore his patella tendon, which connects the quadriceps to the top of the shinbone. He apparently aggravated the injury while walking back to his truck.


A Louisiana doctor performed the surgery and Smith’s knee was placed in a brace for at least a week. Smith was examined by Angel physician Lewis Yocum last week.

Smith could not be reached for comment, but several friends in Castor who have seen him recently, including Castor High School baseball Coach Floyd Pate, said Smith was walking without a limp.

But walking and pushing a 6-foot-6, 270-pound frame off a pitching mound are two entirely different activities, and the Angels are not expecting Smith to be able to perform the latter when pitchers and catchers can report to Tempe, Ariz., on Feb. 16.

Smith, who has a guaranteed contract that will pay him $1.9 million this year, probably will open spring training on a rehabilitation program that includes easy jogging and stretching.

The Angels were not informed of Smith’s injury until mid-December, at least three weeks after it happened, but General Manager Bill Bavasi said the recent signing of Florida reliever Bryan Harvey was unrelated to Smith’s injury.

Smith, who had a 3.47 earned-run average and converted 37 of 41 save opportunities in 1995 to increase his major league career saves record to 471, has been on the disabled only once during his 16-year major league career, for a right groin pull in 1986.


If Smith is unable to regain his form by the regular season, second-year right-hander Troy Percival would assume the closing role.