Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
It’s hard to have watched John Smoltz throughout his Hall of Fame career and now have to watch him struggle mightily. The guy with the best stuff of the Braves’ Golden Three (Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz) and one of the best post-season pitchers ever (15-4 post-season record, although only 2-2 in the World Series – but that’s for another time), it seems that the Atlanta Braves were right not to re-sign Smoltz. But, being the competitor that he is, he got the shoulder surgery, went through the arduous rehab and signed with the Red Sox.
CAN HE DO IT ANYMORE?
Well, after (only?) eight starts, the answer seems to be no. Smoltz has had (very) few good moments. He beat Gil Meche and the Royals on July 11, giving up four hits and one run in five innings (97 pitches) while striking out seven and walking only one. He’s started out very well a few times, often getting through the line-up the first time without problem and then getting hammered later in the game.
But his last four starts have been brutal — giving up eight or nine hits and five or more earned runs in each start, never pitching past the sixth inning. He’s 2-5 with an 8.32 earned run average, giving up 37 earned runs and 59 hits in only 40 innings. As Smoltz knows, it’s a result-oriented world and he just hasn’t gotten the results.
IS IT TIME FOR THE RED SOX TO GIVE UP ON SMOLTZ?
Not quite. The Red Sox might have to give him one more start because they really don’t have anyone else. But when Wakefield and/or Dice-K come back, there’s no room in the rotation for Smoltz. Even if he could turn it around in his next start (unlikely, it says here), he’s been hammered virtually every start so it would still be hard to keep him in the starting rotation.
WHAT ABOUT HIS SHOULDER?
Maybe Smoltz’s shoulder will improve with time (assuming he’s still recovering). But, since he’s started for the Red Sox (eight in all), the reports have been that he’s had “good velocity” (low 90s), so velocity doesn’t seem to be the issue.
An expert hitter like Paul O’Neill pointed out the real issue during the Red Sox-Yankees game on Thursday night. A guy who played against Smoltz in the National League for Smoltz’s first five years in the majors (1988-1992), O’Neill spoke about, at the beginning of the game, how Smoltz had the nastiest slider that he threw inside to lefties and was virtually impossible to hit.
As the game went on, and lefties would go 9-13 (with three walks) against Smoltz, O’Neill couldn’t believe it, finally stating the obvious: that Smoltz simply can’t get lefties out.
WHAT’S A TERRY FRANCONA TO DO?
While you want to respect Smoltz’s Hall of Fame career, it’s hard to believe that Francona will trot Smoltz out there more than one more time. Francona, who’s had his own managerial problems (it’s hard to believe that Francona would pitch to Evan Longoria the other night with a man on third and two out in extra innings. Longoria hit a moonshot to give Tampa Bay a sweep of the mini-series), might have to consider moving Smoltz to the bullpen.
With velocity in the low 90s and the competitive fire still there, as well as his fantastic experience as a closer for the Braves, Smoltz could certainly help the Red Sox out in the bullpen. He’d have to be a right-handed relief specialist with the ability to only pitch against a lefty on a rare occasion (like in the middle of four or five righties).
It says here that Smoltz could do that job and, IF his shoulder somehow has negatively hurt him and gets better and allows the 42-year-old to re-capture his prior greatness (or, at least, some semblance of it), then Francona could return him to the starting rotation (subject to how the other pitchers are doing). But that’s a big “if.”
And, yes, this is being written by a Yankee fan.
We’ll see what happens.
POSTSCRIPT: About eight hours after this was written, the Boston Red Sox designated John Smoltz for assignment. According to ESPN, Smoltz will probably head to the minors and try and come back to Boston as a reliever. SK
© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.