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When a pitcher is in his early 40s, coming off major surgery it can go either way.  Either he has a renewed burst of a couple of years for his career or he’s shot. Boston is taking a chance on John Smoltz, the now former workhorse for the Atlanta Braves.

The future Hall of Famer was picked up by the Red Sox after the Braves refused his $3 million offer.

The big question, to me, is about the Braves.  Are they finished?

“…The deal, which also was reported by several other media outlets, means that Smoltz will likely finish his career with a team other than the Braves—a startling development given his long history with the team. He was an unknown minor leaguer when acquired from Detroit in 1987 for Doyle Alexander, but went on to become a cornerstone of Braves’ teams that won a record 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005.

Smoltz apparently turned to the Red Sox after the Braves balked at giving him more than a $3 million deal, the person said. Atlanta general manager Frank Wren declined comment when reached by e-mail, and there was no immediate comment from Boston officials.

Smoltz began his career as a starter, winning 24 games and the NL Cy Young Award in 1996. Numerous elbow problems led him to shift to the bullpen to relieve the stress on his arm, and he set an NL record with 55 saves in his first full season as a closer in 2002.

After three years finishing games for the Braves, Smoltz moved back to the rotation in 2005 and didn’t miss a beat, going 14-7 with a 3.06 ERA. He went 47-26 in his second run as a starter, but shoulder pain cut short the 2008 season after only six appearances.

Smoltz tried to pitch one game as a reliever, then underwent surgery to fix what he said were “five or six problems,” including his labrum, AC joint and biceps.

While acknowledging that similar operations have end the careers of many others, Smoltz felt encouraged enough about his rehabilitation to begin making plans for the new season. The Braves, however, were reluctant to make a deal with the aging pitcher, especially coming off a dismal season in which they missed the playoffs for the third year in a row.

Still, the loss of Smoltz figures to create a major public-relations for a franchise that has fallen on hard times since the longest stretch of postseason appearances in baseball history….”


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