Smoltz waiting for a job (and could he be a Brave again?)

The life in John Smoltz's arm came back when he pitched for St. Louis in a game at San Diego. (AP photo)

The life (and accuracy) in John Smoltz's arm seemed to come back when he pitched for St. Louis in a game at San Diego. (AP photo)

Spring training opens next week and John Smoltz doesn’t have a job. This might unnerve most 42-year-old pitchers who don’t want to hear from baseball people or medical people or certainly Joe-in-section-312-with-nacho-sauce-on-his-chin-people that his career might be over. But the waiting doesn’t bother Smoltz.

“I’ve been doing what I’ve always done this time of year – throwing every other day and getting ready for the season,” he said by phone while driving to his workout. “I’m at a good place with everything that has gone on in my life. I’m just going to let this play out.”

He is not retiring. Nor has he decided for certain that he will hold off signing with a team until mid-season – as Pedro Martinez did with Philadelphia last July – but acknowledges that is a possibility.

“A lot of people are speculating right now,” he said. “But I can assure you it hasn’t come from anything that I’ve said.”

Here’s one possibility that nobody should close a door to: Smoltz returning to the Braves.

Start with this: We saw two different aging pitchers last year. The first Smoltz came off shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, signed with Boston and then crashed in spectacular fashion. He was 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA in eight games. He allowed eight runs in 3.1 innings in his last start against the New York Yankees. The Red Sox said, “Enough,” and released him.

The second Smoltz came from some alternate universe. He signed with St. Louis. In his first start, he struck out seven straight and threw five shutout innings against San Diego.

Half of Boston went on suicide watch.

The overall numbers with the Cardinals weren’t award-worthy (1-3, 4.26, in six games). But throwing 40 strikeouts with only nine walks in 38 innings was significant.

Those numbers told Smoltz it wasn’t over.

“Overall, I didn’t have the outcome that I wanted. I didn’t have the success rate that I wanted,” he said. “But I learned some things along the way. There were things I tried to do that I couldn’t, and at the end of the day I realized they probably weren’t within the realm of possibility [health-wise after the surgery]. When I went to St. Louis, I was facing some humiliation and oh-no type of things. But I had some success, and it was a great two months in St. Louis. I’m proud of the way I went through one of the toughest seasons in my life.”

There were rumors he would re-sign with the Cardinals. Then came speculation about the New York Mets, Philadelphia, Detroit. So far, nothing.

The Braves? Yes, it could happen.

“Nothing is closed for me,” he said. “That’s why I’m talking about taking my time, letting things play out. A lot of things will go into this decision.”

Bobby Cox phoned him last week.

“He just called to check and see how I was doing,” Smoltz said. “I know there’s been a lot of rumors about here or there. We’ll see what happens.”

There would be some symmetry to Smoltz’s return. Cox is managing in his final season. Imagine Smoltz signing with the Braves in the summer, whether as a late-rotation starter or reliever, trying to get him a second championship.

“I admire him and it was a pleasure to be around him for so long,” Smoltz said of Cox. “Nothing would make it a more perfect scenario than if the Braves went out and won the whole thing in his last year. That’s how much respect I have for him.”

Regarding his own future, there was little for Smoltz to offer, other than he feels good and wants to keep pitching.

“Nothing is in the works right now that I can speak of,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I’m not going to make a quick decision or do something that just doesn’t make sense.”

If nobody phones by June or July, he will have little choice but to think about retirement.

“As time goes on, in my heart and mind, I’ll make a decision and be at peace with it,” he said.

For now, the heart, the mind and the arm want to pitch. All he needs is a buyer.

154 comments Add your comment

ted the man

February 10th, 2010
10:14 pm

Dayman

February 10th, 2010
10:19 pm

No way he comes back to Atlanta.

Traver

February 10th, 2010
10:25 pm

curtis jones

February 10th, 2010
10:27 pm

Hey, Niekro’s available, too. Bring back the Hammer and Rico Carty, while you’re at it.

Toots

February 10th, 2010
10:27 pm

I have no words for this scenario, Jeff. You have rendered me speechless. Although not speechless enough to not tell you I’m speechless if you follow me and I think you do.

Traver

February 10th, 2010
10:28 pm

I’d be for it. What do we have to lose really?

Larry

February 10th, 2010
10:31 pm

meh. Put him in the pen. What could it hurt? 3 of our relievers will either get hurt or pull a Dan Kolb anyway.

Fed Up With Wren (Again)

February 10th, 2010
10:35 pm

Maybe Smoltz can close for the Braves again once Wagner breaks down.

OptimisticInTexas

February 10th, 2010
10:38 pm

This move will make for a deep (and respected, i might add), 100-plus-year-old bullpen. And I like it..

Cosmos

February 10th, 2010
10:39 pm

Curtis, cruel – but funny. I think that the guy is finished but he just can’t admit it. They never can.

Branch Rickey

February 10th, 2010
10:39 pm

PLEASE SAY NO TO JOHN SMOLTZ ! COULD YOU IMAGINE HIM AT 43; WAGNER @ 38; AND SAITO @ 40 ! WREN IS FORMING AN OLD TIMERS TEAM !

ron

February 10th, 2010
10:40 pm

we need young arms, not old dead ones.

Al Hrabosky

February 10th, 2010
10:41 pm

If Smoltzie returns, can I come to ?

RomeDawg

February 10th, 2010
10:43 pm

Steve Avery and Alejandro Pena would also like another shot! Here’s some advice for aging athletes: Don’t bash the team you were with your whole career just because they have the teams and the fans best interest in mind by letting you walk. I would like to think that Frank Wren has now been justified in his decision not to resign Smoltz. I loved having Smoltzie be a Brave, however, if we are a better team, more equipped to win without him, he had to go. Nothing personal. When he left last year and talked about taking less than fair market value to resign with the Braves in past years did he ever consider the years the Braves paid him to miss most of the season?

Mike Lum

February 10th, 2010
10:45 pm

Would he take a minimum contract? Doubt it. Pitching is not what we need.

cadilac

February 10th, 2010
10:47 pm

gene garber could be a good sign and trade

Traver

February 10th, 2010
10:48 pm

Don’t forget Tommy Boggs and Preston Hanna in middle relief

Mr Charlie

February 10th, 2010
10:49 pm

I would not count him out, as bad as he looked in Boston, he was coming off arm surgery, and walked into the pressure cooker. The arm has had a year to heal, and if he has been working out, how knows. If I were a team in need, I would bring him into camp to see what he has. What is the harm?

Mrs Smolts

February 10th, 2010
10:50 pm

After I got through with him, he needs to cash.

Mr Charlie

February 10th, 2010
10:50 pm

When will the Hampton rumors start?

Pascual Perez

February 10th, 2010
10:52 pm

I’m be there shortly; what exit was it off I-285???

Terry Forster

February 10th, 2010
10:53 pm

well, at least he’s not a fat tub of goo…

Extremus

February 10th, 2010
10:53 pm

As long as the Braves don’t pull what they did with Tom Glavine in sending mixed signals and getting Smoltz’s (and some fans’) hopes up only to callously drop him in the end, I think perhaps a return to the Braves in a limited role would be a good thing overall. He would probably come here for not that much money, probably work some out of the bullpen, where if he stays healthy and effective he could be a big asset to our depth as well as a mentor to the younger staff, and most importantly retire in a Braves uniform, the first of that great generation of 90s Braves to do so. That would be both a public relations win and an opportunity for Smoltz to perhaps move into a coaching or front office role next season.

The reasons it probably won’t happen are valid ones, however. Our pitching staff, at least on paper, is fairly set, despite the loss of Javier Vazquez. Smoltz would have to earn a job on the team in Spring Training, no doubt; I think we all know Frank Wren is not a man given to sentimentality after how he handled the Glavine situation last year. And of course there is Frank Wren himself; Smoltz has been very public with his displeasure with Braves management over the tactless way Glavine was cut loose. And lastly, Smoltz carries a huge risk with regards to health right now; if he begins to lose command or velocity and gets hammered by opponents in just a few outings, it could mean the difference between playing baseball in October and watching it for the Braves.

It’s an intriguing idea, one I admit I’d like to see happen from a sentimental perspective, especially the idea of getting to see Smoltz and Cox go out together. But I also have a feeling it won’t happen or things won’t end up rosy if it does. Hope I’m wrong in either case.

Tami

February 10th, 2010
10:55 pm

It’s a nice story and if it could happen, then fine. But, not at the expense of giving Smoltz money that should have gone to plug up the holes that the team has elsewhere.

oldandntheway

February 10th, 2010
11:07 pm

And then again it could be a story book finish we would all love to see. Nah, never hppen.

Matt the Brave

February 10th, 2010
11:09 pm

I would take him back if he pitched for league minimum. And did whatever the Braves said.

cliff

February 10th, 2010
11:11 pm

Hang it up, John! You’re making a fool of yourself.,\

Jon l

February 10th, 2010
11:13 pm

I would trade cabera if they sign Damon and give the 3 mil he is supposed to make to smoltz, he has earned it. Then wren would go from having a terrible offseason to a pretty good one if you can get some good prospects for melky. I know that would be enough for me to concede that we had a decent offseason and have a real chance to compete next year(if heyward starts out of spring and is good as everyone thinks he will be). Do you agree jeff?

sansho1

February 10th, 2010
11:17 pm

The annual speculation about whether this or that ancient Braves pitcher will return is the most mind-numbing kabuki dance this side of the ongoing Favre retirement saga.

db

February 10th, 2010
11:17 pm

let’s try to get him on the cheap. he wants to pitch, and we have no money, so it’s a win win. plus with bobby going out, it could create a special season. let’s hope so. go braves!

1st 2010

February 10th, 2010
11:23 pm

Think of it this way who would you rather have on the mound Kawakami or Smoltz lets see……..SMOLTZ!!!!!!! And no im not being sarcastic he would add alot to the team! Think about he can start for about 6 on a spectacular day 7 innings or he go to the bull pin. GET SMOLTZ NOW!!!

hmmmm.......

February 10th, 2010
11:24 pm

I think all of you guys making cracks about Smoltz are making fools of yourselfs. Yeah he’s 42 but he’s not Glavine. Smoltz is one of the all time big game pitchers, he still has that nasty spilter and can bring it. I’d much rather have Smoltz now that KK or Lowe.

Kurdt Kobain

February 10th, 2010
11:26 pm

No. Not just because of everything he said last Spring, but because he’s also old. We have enough pitchers. We have enough old pitchers.

No thanks.

Kurdt Kobain

February 10th, 2010
11:27 pm

I would rather have KK. KK wasn’t terrible last year. Smoltz was.

John

February 10th, 2010
11:27 pm

you are all-in-section-312-with-nacho-sauce-on-your-chin

Mitchell

February 10th, 2010
11:29 pm

Willie Mays could have been a Brave? Dammit!

Willie Mays on the Daily Show, well I suppose in his book, says the Braves almost signed him but didn’t.

Not that I would have ever seen him play but… dammit! They might have actually won something back in the day with Hank Aaron and Rico Carty and whoever. Joe Torre, that traitor. Dusty Baker.

Then we could have won a few more in the ’90s without having to carry the burden of thirty years without a championship. We still probably would have lost.

Oh yeah, bring Smoltzie back. Why not? Not gonna happen. Who are we kidding.

Pompano

February 10th, 2010
11:30 pm

Smoltz’s problem has never been his arm – he’s a head-case. Time to move forward.

TruthSeeker

February 10th, 2010
11:39 pm

Smoltz, arguably the greatest postseason pitcher of all-time, is a head-case? That’s a new one.

From a purely on the standpoint, this wouldn’t be a terrible move for the Braves. If he’s healthy he should be able to provide some quality innings in middle relief, and could also give an occasional spot start. I don’t know how much he’s asking for, but I wouldn’t lose sleep if we gave him $1M to pitch in that capacity.

J-MAN

February 10th, 2010
11:44 pm

I’ll never count smoltz out of anything, he has more heart than anyone

Wrenemy of the State

February 10th, 2010
11:45 pm

Bringing Smoltz back to Atlanta would make a lot of Braves fans happy which means Frank Wren would never do it. He clearly hates all of us.

Doc Holliday

February 10th, 2010
11:46 pm

How about Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette, oops their both dead.

MitchC

February 10th, 2010
11:54 pm

I dont see anywhere that Smoltz fits on our staff, except as a right handed late inning guy in the pen. If healthy, we have five starters, including two young studs in Hanson and Jair, and a very good, still relatively young guy in Hudson.

One has to wonder if Smoltz would accept a middle relief role at this point in his career, or if he would be a secondary right handed relief closer for Wagner.

I think Smoltz would want to come back, but I think it only makes sense if it’s for something like league minimum money. We dont have much else to give him, nor is he worth much more to us now at this point in his career. The thing I do see, is that by coming back, he could finish his career as a Brave, which would be fitting.

I’m not against the idea. If it happened, I’d be okay with it.

OptimisticInTexas

February 11th, 2010
12:07 am

Yea — I wouldn’t mind Smoltz in the clubhouse again, along with Glavine in the organization for Bobby’s farewell campaign. Hell, I might even fly to the ATL for a game or two…

The Grinch

February 11th, 2010
12:13 am

I sincerely hope those on here who said they’d rather have Smoltz in the rotation than KK or Lowe aren’t allowed outside without supervision.

Dustin

February 11th, 2010
12:20 am

Smoltzie was a Braves icon for many years. He would fill some seats during the season if he was brought back. I love the guy, he did a lot of great things for Atlanta, not to mention won some big games for us. But from a “pure” business perspective, he would neither help or hurt the ball club. Basically it comes down to experience vs. youth/resiliancy.

For sentamental value only, bring him back. He might just bring that extra intangible that the team needs.

wayn-o

February 11th, 2010
12:22 am

Might be a great mid-season help in the bullpen! why not, there is already plenty of “if’s” already. add 2 more (damon & smoltz), some of them have to pay off.

Ted Striker

February 11th, 2010
12:25 am

Jeffy, Jeffy, Jeffy:

As much as we agree on many thangs — beer… women… beer… women… beer… women… most sports topics… beer… women… women… beer — darned if I’ve ever understood your everloving fascination with one John Andrew Smoltz.

The dude has just always grated on me. I could tell you why, but it would have to involve beer and it ain’t fit for a family newspaper.

4 jacks

February 11th, 2010
12:28 am

I’ve always liked John Smoltz, but he runs his mouth to much. I know I am a nobody, but I put on my pants on one leg at a time just like Smoltz. For him to leave and bad mouth the team and the organization for which he did so much for, but was also well paid for was low class. It is not as bad, but reminds me of the Favre thing. It is all about them, in this case all about Smoltz. Let him do “his” thing somewhere else. What is that thing about burning bridges? Let him take his low class mouth and opinions somewhere else, and lets choose to remember him as he was when he was part of us.

MS. State Bulldog

February 11th, 2010
12:30 am

Bring back Rick Camp for his bat!!

Brandon

February 11th, 2010
12:37 am

I think Smoltz would be a good setup man for Wagner and could possibly spot start in case of some light injuries to a starter.