John Smoltz is set to prove everybody with or without a medical degree wrong again. The fact his first start for Boston probably won’t come against the Braves is OK because, well, apparently even the man who lives for such moments wonders if that one would’ve been too much.
“I was working out, preparing for that possibility,” he said by phone. “But this is probably the best scenario for me just because there would be so much surrounding that game that it wouldn’t be just a game. I’d prefer my start be as normal as possible, even though at the beginning I know it’s not.”
He acknowledged: “The reality is, [facing the Braves] would’ve been one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. But now it’s probably not going to happen.”
He’s trying to make another comeback, this from shoulder surgery. He will pitch four innings of another rehab start tonight for Pawtucket and likely will make his first start as a member of the Boston Red Sox next Thursday in Washington. That means he will not pitch in the weekend series against the Braves at Turner Field, unless the start against Washington is rained out.
When I spoke to Smoltz a few weeks ago during a rehab start in Augusta, it was clear how much he was looking forward to the possibility of pitching against the Braves. But he also said, “It would almost be too much.”
When he said the same thing late Tuesday night, I didn’t believe him. Still not sure I do now.
But it does make sense. Certainly, the Red Sox don’t care about the potential drama surrounding that game. Manager Terry Francona just wants Smoltz ready for the pennant run. I’m sure he had that in mind when he set Smoltz’s spot in what will be a six-man Red Sox rotation (unless something changes).
But I had to ask one more time if he was disappointed.
“I knew it was a possibility and I have to admit that the anticipation intrigued me,” he said. “But I can’t say I’m disappointed. Throughout this process, the one thing I’ve been able to do is focus on tomorrow, not seven days from now. Just deal with tomorrow. This makes it easier.”