FORT MYERS, Fla. — Yes, that would be John Smoltz, who just addressed the media for a solid 16 minutes as the rest of the pitchers and catchers headed out to one of the far fields for some conditioning drills.
Though you won’t be seeing Smoltz on the mound any time soon — he’s slated for a June arrival with the Sox after his rehab from surgery — he’s hoping to be a sage presence in the clubhouse for some of the younger pitchers.
He was, in fact, raving about Jon Lester’s performance last season: “I’m not blown away by too much, but I love watching playoff baseball if I’m not in it,” Smoltz said. “And what these guys have done, especially Jon Lester — what he did last year, I sat there with my mouth open cause that time of year you’re not supposed to be doing what he did. That’s a tribute to his success and his ability to rise up.”
The biggest issue for Smoltz during this spring training won’t be putting on the new red-and-blue getups. No, that will be learning the names of all his new teammates, and how to get around. (When he gets up to Boston, perhaps a GPS would be a wise investment…) For now, he’s doing some of the “grunt work,” he said — the stuff that will allow him to get on a mound toward the end of March.
Smoltz did have more harsh words for that other team he had played for his entire major league career. Though he said he has turned the page, there is clearly some unhappiness with the end of his tenure in Atlanta.
“The reason I was disappointed was the reaction, or should I say the statements that they put out, which just weren’t true,” he said. “This could have been a peaceful departure, as in any other times in the past it would have been. … I was very disappointed by the way they handled it. Not the fact that I’m not there, it’s just the way they handled it. They had to do what they had to do, and certainly so did I. I’m presented with the greatest opportunity of a lifetime, if you ask me.”