After reflecting on the three weeks of sleepless nights that followed his shoulder surgery, John Smoltz sounded as if he might be tossing and turning one more time – this time out of sheer anxiousness over his first major league start for a team other than the Atlanta Braves.
Smoltz is scheduled to make his debut for the Boston Red Sox tonight, facing the Washington Nationals at the end of a long rehab that has sidelined him from the big leagues for more than a year.
“I wish I could probably sleep here,” Smoltz said Wednesday at Nationals Park, “and make sure I’m here tomorrow.”
Smoltz’s No. 29 jersey hung in a locker between the No. 49 of Tim Wakefield and the No. 34 of David Ortiz. Ortiz even helped shuffle the hoard of reporters into place for the start of Smoltz’s remarks. The 42-year-old right-hander is the only pitcher to win 200 games and save 150, but he has never had a space to call his own in an American League clubhouse.
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“This is not the old or the new or the done,” Smoltz said. “It’s just a new chapter in which, when I have a baseball in my hand, I feel like I can make a pitch and do the things I have to do to take the sting out of the bat. And if that’s the case, we’ll progress and keep getting better every time out. But tomorrow is just one rung in the ladder to try and climb as far as I can to see how good I can be; and, really, at the end of the day, to be in position to pitch in the playoffs.”
Smoltz had shoulder surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder last June, eight days after his final game for the Braves. He became a free agent at the end of the season and signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Red Sox in January. He had a 1-1 record with a 2.63 ERA in six rehab starts, and, despite the possible jitters, is confident his comeback will be productive.
“It will be a success,” Smoltz said, “and I came back with this mind-set that it ain’t about stories, it ain’t about to say ‘I can do it again.’ This is about pitching and getting hitters out. The end result is going to be that, and three, four, five starts from now, I think you’ll see why I feel the way I do.”
Manager Terry Francona said Smoltz will be limited to 85 to 90 pitches tonight.
And just how will it feel to wear another uniform for the first time?
“That part will be different, but it won’t be weird to be in a uniform throwing a baseball, I promise you that,” he said. “When I’m on the mound I’m going to give it everything that I absolutely have, and I’ll let everybody else determine what it is that I have.”
Lindstrom put on DL
The Florida Marlins placed closer Matt Lindstrom on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right elbow, one day after he blew a three-run lead.
“It’s frustrating. I’ve been battling for the past three weeks … a month,” said Lindstrom, who is 2-1 with a 6.52 ERA with 14 saves in 16 opportunities. “It just got to the point where doing the little things to prepare to throw each day became difficult.”
To replace Lindstrom, the Marlins called up reliever Chris Leroux from Double-A Jacksonville.
Sheffield gets a shot
Gary Sheffield had a cortisone shot behind his right knee and was held out of the depleted New York Mets’ lineup for the third straight game.
Sheffield had already missed the Mets’ first two games of their four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals and will likely be out until Friday when they play the Yankees. Manager Jerry Manuel said Sheffield was available to pinch hit in an emergency but there was no plan to place the slugging outfielder on the Mets’ crowded disabled list.
Reliever Jose Veras was traded by the New York Yankees for cash to a Cleveland Indians team seeking to bolster an overworked and ineffective bullpen that has converted 13 of 26 save opportunities. … The Oklahoma City RedHawks have activated 43-year-old former major league pitcher Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. The right-hander was signed to a minor league contract by the Texas Rangers on June 12. … Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and St. Louis third base coach Jose Oquendo will serve as managers for the All-Star Futures Game on July 12 at Busch Stadium, two days before the major league All-Star Game. … Oakland Athletics rookie pitcher Josh Outman has been put on the disabled list because of a sprained left elbow. Oakland recalled left-hander Gio Gonzalez from Triple-A Sacramento. … Tyler Clippard has been promoted from Triple-A Syracuse and Kip Wells has been designated for assignment, the latest shuffle for the struggling Washington Nationals bullpen.