Thursday, June 25, 2009

Smoltz's first outings back from injury

To expand on today's Union Leader story about how it's dangerous to put too much stock in what John Smoltz does in his first outing today: This isn't the first time Smoltz has tried to come back from surgery on his pitching arm. If he struggles in his first start, well, it wouldn't be the first time for that, either:

Smoltz had bone chips removed from his elbow after a rough 1994 season -- and by "rough," of course, we mean that he had a 4.00-plus ERA for the only time in his career. He underwent surgery in July of 1994 and was ready to go by the time the 1995 season began -- and he had a 2.48 ERA on May 30. Not bad.

After dealing with elbow issues for a couple of years, Smoltz underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2000 and missed the entire season -- as well as the first six weeks of the 2001 season. The first batter he faced in his first start back was Colorado's Juan Pierre, who singled up the middle. The fourth batter he faced was Jeff Cirillo, who hit a home run. Smoltz lasted just three innings and allowed five earned runs.

He then missed six more weeks before returning as the Braves' closer -- and he allowed a pair of unearned runs in his second stint in short relief.

When Smoltz opened his first season as a starting pitcher after three-plus years as a closer, he did so in inauspicious fashion: He allowed six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings -- and he even walked the opposing pitcher, a 24-year-old flamethrower by the name of Josh Beckett.

His next start, though, was something to behold: He went 7 1/3 innings and allowed just two earned runs, striking out 15 and walking no one.

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