Smoltz OK after 'pen session
Even with likely DL stint, righty shooting for April 6 start
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- John Smoltz experienced no right shoulder discomfort during Thursday morning's bullpen session, and now the Braves' veteran is even more confident that he'll be able to make his first start at the conclusion of the regular season's first weekend.
After throwing for approximately 20 minutes on Thursday, Smoltz said that he was no longer feeling the tightness between his neck and right shoulder. He'd been fighting that discomfort over part of the previous week, and he was scratched from last Friday's scheduled Grapefruit League start.
"It was the best day that I've had down here," Smoltz said.
All indications are that Smoltz will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list, with the transaction being backdated nine days before the start of the regular season.
This will allow the Braves to carry an extra pitcher for the season's first five days and give Smoltz a chance to relocate the control he's lost while not throwing over the past week. He plans to take the next two days off and then prepare to start a Minor League game at Disney early next week.
"As I said earlier, [the shoulder] just needed some time to settle down," Smoltz said. "It's settled down. Now I'll be able to approach it the way I approach anything else."
If everything remains on schedule, Smoltz's season debut will come against the Mets at Turner Field on April 6. His likely mound counterpart will be Johan Santana.
Smoltz and the Braves don't seem concerned that he could enter the regular season having faced a Major League team just once this spring. He set a plan that allowed him to substitute his first three scheduled Grapefruit League starts with simulated games.
"He can pitch one time and have a couple of side sessions and be ready," Braves manager Bobby Cox said, while showing no concern.
Smoltz's only true game this month came on March 15, when he allowed the Rays five runs -- three earned -- and four hits in 4 2/3 innings. Each of the runs scored against him came during the fifth inning.
During Thursday's session, Smoltz threw until he got tired, and he felt like he'd built some endurance in his arm. The 40-year-old veteran hurler will take the same approach when he throws in a Minor League game next week. By doing this, he's confident that his endurance will be where it needs to be for his first start.
"I'm just going to throw until I've had enough and I'll know when that is," Smoltz said. "Whatever I do will be sufficient. When I had enough, I got off the mound today."
Because of Smoltz's age and the fact that he was bothered by shoulder discomfort for the final four months of last season, there's at least reason to wonder if the right shoulder will prove to be a nagging problem this year.
But Smoltz is agitated by this thought, and he said that he's not allowing himself to even think about that being a possibility.
"I'm going to go out this year like I started and I'm going to have a really good time," Smoltz said. "I'm going to have a blast, and I'm hopefully going to win some games along the way. I'm not going to get consumed like I was before. I've got a lot of pitching left."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.