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LSU third baseman Josh Smith (4) throws to first base to get Florida right fielder Nelson Maldonado out in the second inning during Game 1 of the College World Series finals between LSU and Florida, Monday, June 26, 2017, at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Ne.

Josh Smith will have to wait to make his return.

LSU was hopeful Smith would be available Friday for the first time since he injured his back in the opening series of the season, but Smith suffered a setback that had coach Paul Mainieri sweating out the results of an MRI.

Smith fielded about 50 ground balls and took the same number of swings Monday. He was feeling fine on the field, but started having back spasms afterward.

They concerned LSU enough to send him in for an MRI, but the results showed his back was healed, meaning the issue is not something that should affect Smith long term.

“As a young kid who had never gone through that, it scared him,” Mainieri said. “It scared me as his coach, too. I feared the worst when I knew he was going to go get an MRI.

“I was afraid the stress reaction turned into a fracture. I started thinking all the worst.”

Mainieri said the spasms were likely a result of Smith’s back muscles being weakened after lack of work.

While Smith should be OK in the long term, Mainieri ruled him out for the Tennessee series and declined to project a date for his return to the field.

“I don’t want to forecast a new target date,” Mainieri said. “We’ll see how the next few days go with the treatments.

“Mentally, it’s good to know there’s not a structural problem there. It should heal in time.”

On Deck: How to watch and listen to Game 1 between LSU and Tennessee, what to watch for


LSU announced Thursday that freshman Ma’Khail Hilliard will move into the No. 2 spot in the weekend rotation behind ace Zack Hess. Earlier this week, Caleb Gilbert moved out of the rotation into a bullpen role. 

Who takes Gilbert's spot is still anybody’s guess, Mainieri said.

“I’m just not sure,” Mainieri said. “I’m really not.”

LSU will list its Sunday starter as “TBA” (to be announced) and may wait until late Saturday to arrive at a starter.

“We’re going to play Friday’s game and do what’s necessary to give us a chance to win, and we’re going to do the same thing Saturday,” Mainieri said. “After the game Saturday, (pitching coach Alan Dunn) and I will talk and figure out what the best plan will be for Sunday, see who’s available.”

Caleb Gilbert is 'fully embracing' his move to the LSU baseball bullpen

31 Always 

The New Orleans Baby Cakes will retire the No. 31 uniform worn at LSU by Wally Pontiff Jr.

The Baby Cakes are retiring the number “in recognition of 15 years hosting the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic.”

The uniform retirement will happen in a July 27 ceremony, when the Baby Cakes host the Tacoma Rainiers.

Pontiff, a Metairie native, was an All-American infielder at LSU. He was 21 years old when he died as a result of a heart abnormality in 2002.

Injury updates

Junior second baseman Brandt Broussard (broken thumb) had his splint removed this week and is now working on regaining mobility in the thumb.

“The bone, where it’s broken, is fine,” Mainieri said. “They just have to make sure all the soft tissue around that joint is good enough to resume baseball activity.

“If everything goes as we hope, maybe by the beginning of next week he’ll be able to start resuming some baseball activity.”

Mainieri declined to speculate on a potential return date for Broussard.

Mainieri sounded hopeful earlier this week that Nick Storz would throw Monday, but apparently the freshman right-hander didn't throw that day, then came down with an illness Tuesday that caused him to stay home for LSU’s midweek game against Louisiana Tech.

Mainieri said with Storz, it was another case of doing “what his body says we can do.”

“I’m still not giving up hope he can be back and help us before the year’s over,” Mainieri said.

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.