There’s still no official word from Boston, but it appears all-but-certain that John Smoltz will be the PawSox starting pitcher on Friday night at McCoy Stadium.
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Last night after tossing 5 solid innings for Class-A Greenville, Smoltz told reporters that he expected his next two starts to be for Pawtucket before tentatively making his Boston debut on June 16th against the Florida Marlins.
If Smoltz remains in a starter’s normal 5-day routine, his PawSox starts would be on June 5th at McCoy and June 11th in a doubleheader at Syracuse (Pawtucket is off on June 10th).
Last night, Smoltz allowed 4 hits and 1 run in 5 IP, with no walks and 6 strikeouts. In 3 minor league rehab starts, he has a 1.59 ERA in 11.1 IP with no walks and 10 strikeouts.
I had the opportunity to interview Smoltz in spring training and asked him what he thought he could contribute to the Red Sox after coming off of shoulder surgery.
“Without me they’re good enough to win the World Series – I know that, I’m not a dummy,” Smoltz told me. “With me, I hope to be another asset. An opportunity to win another championship excites me, and I believe that given the proper time frame I will be as good as I’ve ever been – that’s my mindset.”
Smoltz is very high on my list of all-time favorite interviews. He’s funny, interesting, and does his best to make it sound like he’s answering every question for the first time in his life (even if he’s heard it a million times).
I concluded my first interview with him by telling him that I had once heard Tiger Woods call Smoltz “the best amateur” he had ever golfed with.
“I look at that with a double-edged sword – I don’t know how many amateurs he’s played with,” Smoltz said. “Hopefully he’s played with thousands. But every chance I get to play with Tiger is a treasure – he’s the greatest athlete of our generation. I don’t think anyone looked at golf as an athletic sport until he came upon the scene. Anytime you come into a sport and change it universally, I think you’ve got to be considered the greatest athlete to play the game. The sky is the limit if he can stay healthy. He’ll shatter records and we’ll talk about him for years to come. But I’m going to beat him – I just want you to know that – I’m going to beat him. I’m going to wear him down.”
Smoltz hopes to make the cut in a regular PGA Tour event when his baseball career is over. Let’s hope that’s after he earns a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox.
* * * * *
A couple of days ago, my blog featured this incredible photograph of pitcher Billy Traber taken by my friend Kelly O’Connor.
I e-mailed it to Billy and then got the story behind the shot.
“Usually when we walk back in from throwing and stretching, I grab a baseball and toss it into the stands,” Traber said. “I try to get it to a little kid, but since they don’t have the best hands to catch a baseball, it can be a challenge at McCoy Stadium (where the first row of the stands is 12 to 15 feet off the ground). So in that case, I tried to do a ‘Superman’ act and stepped on one railing while I grabbed the railing on top. I pulled myself up and handed the ball to a little boy or girl so that they wouldn’t get a face-plant. It works out much better that way.”
One of things I love about that photo is the optical illusion that makes it appear that Billy is leaping high into the air to reach into the first row of the stands. To me, it looks like the Nike “Jumpman” logo.
“Some of your best athletes are pitchers,” Traber said with a laugh. “I don’t claim to be one of those guys, but if it looks like I am leaping. . .then you know what – I guess I am!”
* * * * *
Tonight the PawSox conclude their 8-game road trip with the finale of a 4-game series in Indianapolis. It’s been a great stop for me because my wife Peg and my son Sam were here in Indy until this afternoon.
We’ve been to the Children’s Museum, the Indianapolis Zoo, and eaten a lot of ice cream.
The timing was perfect because today is our 7th wedding anniversary.
And Lou Gehrig’s famous quote definitely applies to yours truly.
I hope you’ll tune in to tonight’s game from Indianapolis, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.