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Things did not go very well for John Smoltz in his first outing for the Red Sox and first time back from major shoulder surgery. However, after letting up four runs in the first inning on 35 pitches, the 42-year-old veteran seemed to settle down in the next four innings. Other than letting up a run in the third, he shut down Nationals the rest of the game.
“All in all, most times if the line score is the way it is tonight, I’m going to be very disappointed, but I really can’t be at this point,” said Smoltz. “A lot of hard work went into this. Although I’d like that mulligan in the first inning gone, that’s just the way it happens. Now everything will be normal for me.”
This was the first start since June 2008 for Smoltz and he is just getting back from major shoulder surgery that required intense rehab. If there is any cause for concern, consider this: Smoltz has a history of slow starts.
In fact, after looking at all of his first starts since 2001, you can understand his struggles a little better:
*Smoltz gave up five HRs in 100 at bats
The rest is a steady uphill climb or John Smoltz would not be John Smoltz. At the end of each of those seasons, if you exclude the first outings, he had a 2.92 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and .237 BAA overall in every other game he pitched from 2001-08.
So, if history repeats itself, which it is often accustomed to do, when Smoltz makes his second start Tuesday against the Orioles, the former all-star may have shaken out the cob webs.
But, hopefully he has not lost anything from age or surgery.
“Regardless of him coming off rehab, he is John Smoltz,” said Nationals center fielder Willie Harris. “He kept us off-balance, but we were able to get to him. We were able to hit some mistakes. He was throwing hard. His velocity was there.”
Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said, “I’m sure there were some emotions and adrenaline that was certainly flowing and I think that had an impact on certain pitches that first inning. He really gathered himself. The velocity was better than some games he has pitched in rehab. All in all, I thought it was a very encouraging outing.”
Although the build up was exciting for Red Sox fans, with the anticipation from landing him in the off-season to sitting in front of the high-definition moments before his first pitch, this same type of excitement may have negatively affected Smoltz. Or, like history spells out, he just needs a few games before he really gets rolling. T
his whole scenario with the aging Smoltz parallels another veteran the Sox picked up in 2004: Curt Schilling. On the back end of his career, Schilling came to the Sox hoping to win a championship and retire, and he did just that. Hopefully Smoltz can be the same type of spark and veteran leader that Schilling was for the Sox the year they reversed the curse.
Smoltz can let up 10 runs if he wants against the Nationals in interleague play; it really doesn’t matter. When the Sox will be battling for a playoff spot late in the season, he should be all warmed up.