Smoltz Progress Report

The last time picture many have of John Smoltz is the painful grimace etched on his face as he struggled to pitch against the Cubs during the 2003 NLDS. After a round of arthroscopic surgery following the season, we have an updated report on how Smoltz is progressing headed into Spring Training.

When last seen on the mound at Turner Field, John Smoltz was grimacing. When last seen standing by his locker, he was denying there was anything wrong.

And then he was off to Birmingham, Ala., to be operated on by Dr. James Andrews. That was no arthroscopic surgery, either; real cutting was required to clean out Smoltz's right elbow.

Smoltz has been throwing lightly for only a week; he's playing catch from about 90 feet. He says he is doing this without pain, but he has -- let's call a spade a spade -- lied about that before.

He says he'll be ready to do everything every other reliever is doing when pitchers and catchers report to spring training at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on February 19. The pitchers' first workout is scheduled for the following day. Smoltz will see Dr. Andrews again before he heads south.

And no, he will not be a starter. There is no emergency so great that he would be pressed into service in the rotation again. Period.

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