Smoltz could start season on DL
Righty's shoulder improved, but move could be beneficial
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- John Smoltz's right shoulder has improved over the past few days and he is confident that he'll be able to pitch later this week. But if the Braves decide that it makes the most sense to begin the season with him on the disabled list, the veteran hurler isn't going to object.
"I don't know how the scenarios are going to shake out to," Smoltz said. "But whatever it is, it is and I'm going to embrace it."
If Smoltz begins the season on the 15-day disabled list, he would miss just one scheduled turn in the rotation. The Braves could backdate the transaction date nine days before the start of the regular season.
By doing this, they could activate Smoltz for their April 6 game against the Mets. That is the first time they'll play this season for a fifth consecutive day and be in need of a fifth starter.
Understanding the Braves could benefit from having an extra position player or pitcher during those first five games that he could potentially spend on the disabled list, Smoltz looks at this potential decision with comfort. Another thing easing his mind is the fact that he's encountered similar shoulder discomfort in the past and believes he can lose it with simple rest.
"That's what it takes every time -- two or three days," said Smoltz, who says the knot is located between his shoulder and his neck, in the trapezius region of his shoulder.
Smoltz plans to test his shoulder again by playing catch on Monday or Tuesday. If all goes well, he'd like to pitch in a Minor League game on Wednesday or Thursday.
By having Smoltz pitch in a Minor League game, the Braves would still have the option to backdate the transaction date if they choose to place him on the disabled list at the beginning of the season.
Whatever the case, Smoltz says he won't attempt to pitch until he's confident that he's healthy. He tweaked his right shoulder while throwing a warmup pitch during his May 29 start in Milwaukee and then made four of his five scheduled starts in June.
"I don't want to compensate just to find when I can pitch again," Smoltz said. "I want to throw when I'm free and easy to throw. From all the experiences I've been through, I'll know when that is."
Although he fought some shoulder discomfort during the final four months of last season, Smoltz's right shoulder didn't become an issue until he felt some tightness while throwing a side session on Wednesday.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.