John Smoltz’s first start in a Red Sox uniform will come against the Nationals next Thursday, June 25, in Washington D.C., the pitcher and club confirmed before tonight’s game at Fenway Park.
Smoltz, who has won 210 games and saved 154 more during his 20 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, will also make an abbreviated rehab start tomorrow night for Pawtucket. That will give him seven days of rest before his Boston debut. On this schedule, he will not pitch against the Braves, with whom he departed acrimoniously before signing with the Red Sox in early January.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that Smoltz’s arrival means the Sox could go with a six-man rotation for the time being, though not as a long-term solution.
“It might be for a time or two through. It could happen,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said today when asked about the prospect of a six-man rotation upon Smoltz’s return. “A six-man rotation wouldn’t be the worst thing for a short period of time.”
Francona said Smoltz will slot between Josh Beckett and Jon Lester in the rotation.
“Once he comes back, hopefully there’s no turning back and he pitches deep into October,” Francona said.
Earlier today, Smoltz engaged in a lighthearted interview on the Dan Patrick radio show this morning, indicating then that he thought he would pitch next Tuesday or Wednesday.
During the interview, Smoltz did not indicate what other move or moves the Red Sox would make in order to work him into the rotation. When asked by Patrick if struggling Daisuke Matsuzaka will go to the bullpen when he joins the rotation, Smoltz joked, “No, I think when I join the rotation, Lester and Beckett go to the bullpen.”
With a dose of snark, Patrick offered another solution.
“You know what? You’ve got to feel bad. If you pitch well, then Brad Penny gets traded. I hope you’re happy.”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Smoltz said, laughing.
Patrick kidded Smoltz that his first start — against the woeful Nationals — should really count as another rehab assignment.
“Does a win against the Nationals count on your career record?” Patrick joked. “Does that count as part of your rehab?” When Smoltz laughed but didn’t respond, Patrick added, “You can’t lose to them, John. Then I’m going to go, ‘what happened to him?’ Then, the Braves are right [for letting you go].”
Patrick also delighted in teasing Smoltz about being “the baseball version of Brett Favre.”
Patrick: “You’re sort of the guy who won’t go away. You’ve got a Hall of Fame career, you’ve got money, you’ve got everything but hair. And you could walk away right now. Do you understand what Favre’s going through by wanting to play again?”
Smoltz: “Do I understand what he’s going through? No. But I certainly understand what I’m going through. And that was a year-long operation to get back on the mound. And I’m almost there.”
Patrick: “Yeah, but he had arm surgery and wanted to come back and play. He’s had a Hall of Fame career. You don’t see any parallels between you two?”
Smoltz: “No, because I didn’t come out and say I retired.”
Patrick: “But people said that you should probably.”
Smoltz: “Well, people said I should get a toupee, too . . . I didn’t listen to that, either.”