Friday, June 19, 2009

All sorts of emotions for Smoltz as Braves arrive

John Smoltz is a PGA Tour-caliber golfer who can hold his own with the greatest the game has ever seen.

But Chipper Jones has seen him blow a putt about as badly as a putt can be blown.

"He had about a six-foot putt on 18 to beat Tiger out at Isleworth one day," said Jones, whose Braves will play three games at Fenway Park this weekend. "Tiger came up and stood next to me on the green and goes, 'I'll bet he doesn't even hit the cup with this putt.'

"Smoltzie missed it by like eight inches. He gagged a little bit."

Jones delighted in the chance to give Smoltz, his teammate with the Braves for more than a decade, something of a hard time. Smoltz actually was the guy who used to give his own teammates a hard time for feeling nostalgic when their old teams came to town: Greg Maddux against the Cubs, for example, or Fred McGriff against the Padres.

"I'd tell them to let it go, give it up," Smoltz said with a grin. "I've already heard that."

Smoltz won't pitch against the Braves this weekend and, barring a rainout forcing the two teams to meet against sometime in July or August, won't pitch against them this season. But just being in the opposing dugout made for some mixed emotions on Friday.

"You can't erase history," Smoltz said. "You can't erase friendships, and certainly, there are many over there. I've never been in this situation before."

Still, though, he's having some fun with it.

"I wish I could be an umpire," he said, "and have a comment for each guy that either tries to get to first base or gets to first base. That's what I wish. Or a first baseman, because I would enjoy that part of it."

He's just glad he doesn't have to pitch against the Braves this weekend. It's tough enough to start his season when hitters already have 200 at-bats under their belts. It's tough enough to try to figure out how best to ease his way back after having undergone shoulder surgery. Having to face a team for which he played for more than 20 years might be a little too much.

"Later on, it would be a lot more fun," he said. "It really would -- and I'd have fun with it. I know how to have fun and compete. I've done it against Glavine and Maddux. I'd do it against the Braves. I'd have a good time. If they beat me, it's not because I wasn't prepared or not fiercely going after them. If I beat them, same thing.

"I've thrown to just about every one of those guys in (batting practice) at some point. I've watched their swings."

He's watched all of the Braves' baseball swings. He's also watched a few of the Braves' golf swings -- and while Jones can give him a hard time, the reigning National League batting champ is a far better hitter than golfer.

"I'm not in the same area code," Jones said.

Said Smoltz, "He'd better have three dozen golf balls with him, and that might be running it close. If you play a tough course with a lot of water and he's got to put his driver in his hand, he's going to lose a lot of golf balls.

"But I always say this about Chipper: If he ever really tried to play that game seriously, he has enough talent and length to play it pretty well. He just doesn't get a chance to play very often. When he does, he hits it a long ways but all over the place."

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