AUGUSTA — Not that it’s hard to distinguish a 42-year-old from kids fresh off their high school prom on a minor-league baseball team. But I was sure it was John Smoltz I just saw when he looked at me, smiled and said, “Now I know why it’s raining.”
Well. At least we know his vocal chords remain sharp.
Right now, I’m sitting in the small press box at Lake Olmstead Stadium, which generally doesn’t need a big press box because Class A baseball games generally don’t have a huge media (or fan) following.
But tonight, Smoltz returns to a pitching mound for the first time since last June, when the former Braves starter (and closer) had surgery for a torn labrum. That paved the way for a lowball contract offer from the Braves ($2 million guarantee) and his exit out of Atlanta. Now, he’s a member of the Boston Red Sox and, if his rehab continues on schedule, he could pitch against the Braves next month, when the two teams meet for series at Fenway Park (June 19-21) and Turner Field (June 26-28).
Smoltz is expected to start and throw three innings tonight for Red Sox’ affiliate, the Greenville Drive (ironically a former Braves affiliate). I just spoke to him for about 20 minutes and hope to file a column within a couple of hours. Then I’ll update it after he pitches.
Gotta tell you, though. It’s very strange seeing him here. And wearing a Red Sox t-shirt.