Sunday, June 7, 2009

Smoltz "getting closer and closer"

Reporters had a few more questions to ask John Smoltz on Sunday morning in the Red Sox clubhouse, but the veteran righty had to cut them short. Pitchers were scheduled to start stretching at 11:30 a.m., and it was 11:28.

"I don't mean to run," he said, "but they'll give me grief if I'm not out there at 11:30 -- being the new guy."

Well, he's not quite the new guy yet. He's still got one more rehab start to go before he and the team can pronounce him ready to face big-league hitters. He threw 74 pitches in six innings on Saturday at Triple-A Pawtucket, striking out three and walking two while allowing just one hit and one earned run.

"I would say, 'B,'" he said. "Grade B, which is good. There's room to get up to 'A' level. I know certain things from there will be better."

Said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, "He's getting closer and closer. You can see it, even in the way he talks about it. He's not rehabbing so much anymore. He's trying to attack hitters and make pitches, and he's talking about how he gets a reaction to his split and things like that, which is good to hear."

He'll make one more start at Triple-A -- the PawSox play a doubleheader at Syracuse on Thursday -- before he and the team can pronounce him ready to go.

After that?

"I don't have a plan after that," he said. "I'm planless."

He was pitching on an 85-pitch limit on Saturday but couldn't convince Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson to send him back out for the seventh inning. With Thursday's game being part of a doubleheader and thus just seven innings, his 90- or 95-pitch limit could be enough to let him go the distance.

"The goal is to pitch a complete game," he said. "At those points, with those numbers, you've got a pretty good gauge. They just want me to achieve certain things, and there's no sense pushing it. I understand."

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