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Astros planning to be without reliever Joe Smith this season

Houston Astros relief pitcher Joe Smith talks to the media during a news conference for baseball's World Series, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. Houston will play the Washington Nationals in Game 6 on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Houston Astros relief pitcher Joe Smith talks to the media during a news conference for baseball's World Series, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. Houston will play the Washington Nationals in Game 6 on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – Manager Dusty Baker doesn’t expect reliever Joe Smith to play for the Houston Astros this season.

Smith has not reported to camp because of what general manager James Click called concerns for the safety of his family. Smith was placed on the restricted list Tuesday night, but he has not said publicly if he is opting out of the season, which starts for the Astros on July 24.

“He’s welcome to come back,” Baker said Wednesday. “But right now we’re planning to go on without Joe. He’s a big part of this club. The guys miss Joe. But we know that ... every man has to do what they have to do.”

Players have the option of not playing this season amid the coronavirus pandemic, but will only receive their salary and service time if they are labeled high-risk. Smith’s mother Lee Smith has Huntington’s disease, which causes the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain.

The 36-year-old Smith has spent the last two seasons with the Astros and signed a two-year, $8 million contract to stay with the team this off-season. He missed part of last season recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, but returned to appear in 28 games with a 1.80 ERA.

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