John Smoltz as a bullpen option for the Braves... maybe

When one first takes a look at the 8.32 ERA, the .341 batting average against, and the 1.70 WHIP, your first thought is probably not, "those are John Smoltz' 2009 numbers." Those numbers more closely resemble an Oliver Perez, Jamie Moyer type pitcher. But John Smoltz' numbers they are. That's a pretty good reason for the Red Sox to designate him for assignment, it's also a pretty good reason why no one claimed him and his contract on waivers, and it's probably a pretty good reason why John Smoltz may not get a chance to pitch for any other major league team this year... or is it?

The biggest questions here is, "does Smoltz have any value left in his right arm?" After all this is a guy who posted a 2.57 ERA before getting hurt last year. And really, he posted an 0.78 ERA in his first 4 starts before trying to pitch through an injury. Surely a talent like that just doesn't dry up.

The answer is probably not. There is still some value left in that right arm of John Smoltz, but it's not the starting pitching type of value. While batters hit .341 off of Smoltz when he was in the game, they only hit .267 in his first inning of work, and .185 in his second inning of work (after that it gets rather ugly). This tells me that maybe he is still an effective pitcher in one and two inning stints. The .267 first inning average against is just about as good as every one of our relievers, and better than some.

So there you have it. John Smoltz should return to the Braves as a reliever. Could it happen? Maybe. There are a lot of things in the way, though. Smoltz has said in the past that relieving puts more stress on his pitching arm than starting. But if that's his only choice, would he consent? Can he get past any hard feelings that he may have towards the homeboys upstairs? He'll have to at some point when we retire his number.

There's also the Bobby Cox factor. A phone call or two from the veteran skipper and Smoltz may be convinced that the Braves bullpen is the best place for him. Frank Wren may also want to mend some fences and patch things over with one of the greats.

The real reason the Braves should take a chance on Smoltz is that there still is a chance that he can pitch like the guy he used to be (with Smoltz there is always a chance). So I say let all the pieces fall into place and when the Red Sox release him in a few days, let the Braves be prepared to welcome John Smoltz back into the friendly confines of the Turner Field bullpen. If Smoltz still wants to pitch, it may be his only option.

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