Q. Andy Pettitte was talking about last year he kind of played the role of a counselor to the younger players on the team. Do you see anybody on your team right now stepping up and filling that role, taking guys aside and calming down young guys?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, there's several. I think depending on position,
you have an impact on a player. Obviously, a pitcher will have more
influence on a pitcher, than the position players, it's kind of --
gravitates towards the certain player on the team. I think we have a
good blend of guys that take care of that, and with eight rookies on
our playoff roster, I think more importantly than what we do, they've
been told and brought up in the farm system pretty correct. They're
pretty mature and handle their selves, you know, from a product of
our farm system, managers. I give them a lot of credit, because it's
Q. Anybody stand out in your mind?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, the obvious is, I mean -- they're all -- Brian McCann, to me, is doing something most rookie catchers shouldn't be
doing. Whether he's scared to death inside, he's not showing it.
(Jeff) Francoeur is obvious. I don't want to say he's the
prototypical No. 1, but he's our No. 1 draft choice and a great
athlete. He's just living it out. For the others who pretty much
didn't know their role coming out of spring training, they had an
impact like (Ryan) Langerhans, Kelly Johnson. The list goes on.
They're going to gravitate towards certain players - Chipper Jones
and Andruw Jones and the likes. Kyle Davies has been huge for us, as
well as Blaine Boyer. I think it depends on the person and their
personality and how much they're willing to ask.
Q. Could you talk about Roger Clemens. Your thoughts about him,
going up against him in Game 2?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Roger Clemens... I know he's done something
(laughing). My thoughts are if it was just about me facing him and
him facing me, we'd lead the world in strikeouts probably. But,
basically when you go in the playoffs, names are one thing;
credentials are another. And he has both. You know you're not going
to get too much room to work with. My thoughts are I better be on my
game. I think Game 4, last time we hooked up in the World Series, he
certainly was on his, and he beat us 3-0. Age is not a factor right
now. It's more of -- I think we both pitch with our hearts and guts
and go after guys, and obviously he's got some hardware that proves
Q. Following up about Clemens, if you would have said his style
versus yours, what's most notable in similarities and differences?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, I think if you look at his career, and I think
the latter part of his career he developed a split, I developed a
split. I think it became an incredible weapon for him. His control
has always been a mastermind power pitcher. If you had to clone
somebody on their mechanics and their power and their ability to
throw the ball where they want to, he's the guy as far as I'm
concerned. For me, I've developed into that. I'm getting more into
that area. But I think the similarities are we like to attack with
the fastball, but we have pitches that we typically want the hitter
to swing at, swing and miss at times. So I think he has the ability
to get out of jams, which makes him great at this time of the year.
If you can limit the contact, you got a greater chance for success.
So the goal is going to be to try to somehow get the ball up, but
it's easier said than done when you're out there facing 94 and then
the next thing you know he's throwing a split and a slider.
Q. Different parts of the Astros' lineup can do some damage at
times. What part looking at it from top to bottom, you've faced these
guys a number of years now, what part concerns you the most when you
go out there?
JOHN SMOLTZ: The part that concerns me the most would be tracking
on the bases for Berkman and Ensberg. The top of their lineup, I feel
like I faced Biggio 500 times. We've had our battles, as well as
Bagwell. I have ultimate respect for them, predominantly a
right-handed hitting club. What scares me is the fact that if you
don't make your pitches, meaning I rely on getting right-handed
hitters out, they can make you pay. So the key for me is to keep the
speed off the bases and then they're a little bit more vulnerable.
Much like us, if you keep the speed off the bases, then we're
pitchable. Doesn't mean you're always going to win, but the double
plays and stuff like that come back into order versus the stolen
Q. What does this farm system put into players that so many players
can come and contribute? Is it as simple as just fundamentally sound
baseball or does it go deeper and beyond that?
JOHN SMOLTZ: That's a good question. I only spent a short time
here. I know that they develop a lot of character and time in their
coaches. They put a lot of effort in teaching and teaching them the
way to play baseball versus just assuming they're supposed to know. I
just think they spend money at the lower level more than most other
organizations. They don't have a ton of restrictions on a young
player, but they're basically preparing them for stories like this;
you never know. For the most part we've had change of nine to ten to
twelve players every year. So there's room and there's always room,
and to play for the future of the Braves. I give the credit to the
coaches in the instructional leagues, the different ways they're able
to teach these kids the fundamentals of play -- playing the game is
one thing; they've done that all their life. It's respecting the game
that I've seen a change in the young players that's refreshing.
Q. Bobby yesterday said you're maybe 90, 95% because of your
shoulder. What percentage do you think you are, and do you think the
main issue would just be your control and fine-tuning since you
haven't pitched for a while?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, bring them that -- that brings you back to my
school days. I'd like to stay away from an A-minus. I'm somewhere
between an A-minus and an A-plus. My control shouldn't be an issue.
I've been down this road so many times before. Adrenaline is going to
be incredible at this time. You can't duplicate it. You can't go
through any regular season game like this. Believe me, the
anticipation is what kills me. I have more fun in these games than I
have in any game I pitch, so that's not going to be the issue. The
issue's going to be will I be able to come out from the start and
contain that adrenaline. I've learned how to do that in my latter
years. With it being at home and with the idea of this club, you've
got to stay and keep it close with this baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, and our chances to win are great. So the first inning, I've
always said, is like the previous job I just did. I'm pretty good in
the first inning, which means I approach the first inning like the
ninth inning. Because when you come out of the bullpen, it's the
chance you get to set the tone. Sometimes you can survive and still
go on and make up for it, but in the playoffs you have to set the
tone early, as we've seen in other playoff games. Leads and runners
on base in playoff games are way worse than they are in the regular
season. Imagine if we had to do this every time we were getting to
start. When you get a runner on, it's like a rally and everything is
magnified. I really don't see that being an issue because I've had so
much experience with gaps of time without picking up a baseball.
Q. I think you said when you were closing, there was a little bit
of a helpless feeling. Can you talk about starting now, the
gratification in that?
JOHN SMOLTZ: Yeah, definitely. I think when you talk about Game 1,
Game 2, obviously, best-of-five, they're all huge. Best-of-seven, you
can avoid a hiccup or get away with a hiccup. I think your starting
pitchers dictate some momentum. You can say and everyone can talk
about what our bullpen is or isn't and we can talk about what their
bullpen is or isn't, it can be a moot point if you don't do the
things early you have to do as a starting pitcher. I find irony in
different story lines, how quickly they change. Yesterday (Mike)
Mussina pitched 5 1/3 innings last night. But 5 1/3 innings is
something in a regular season you wouldn't even think was a great
outing. But that's how much it matters in the playoffs. So as your
starting pitching goes, everything else follows. When you're waiting
to make an impact, it's a little more difficult. You may only have
one chance in the role I was last year. When you're the Yankees and
you have Mariano Rivera, it's little bit different story. He's the
cream of the crop.
Q. This is actually a follow-up to that. You talked about how
difficult the anticipation is for this start but you've actually
waited years to make another postseason start. Can you describe how
difficult it is to be waiting for your first start as opposed to
sitting in the bullpen waiting, hoping, that you get the ball?
JOHN SMOLTZ: It's a good question. Been about six years, I think,
since I've started a game. The last one was, ironically, against
Clemens. 3-0 loss against the Yankees, Game 4. The one thing that's
been a yearning in my heart is obviously I've, you know -- the
numbers that I put up haven't gone away and they haven't been
surpassed yet. So that speaks -- I just can't underscore how much
mentally you have to be prepared to pitch at this time of the year.
Physically, we're all less than 100%, but I absolutely want the ball.
That doesn't mean I'm going to win every time, but I really believe
I'm going to. I'm sure my counterpart has the same type of mentality.
And so it's a little different than like an Opening Day start earlier
this year that went a long time, an inning and 2/3, it's a little
different than that. It's something that basically I don't think
about my next start come tomorrow; I think tomorrow's my last start.
That's the way I approach it. I never do that in a regular season. I
never worry -- you know, if I'm pitching on Monday, you always have
your eye a little bit about pitching on Saturday, every five days. So
to wait this long to pitch in a game like this, that's why I don't
make a big deal of when I pitch, just the fact that I get to pitch
and work as hard as I can to get to this level, it took me 230
innings, which I know a lot of us didn't think was going to happen,
including myself. So I needed a little bit of rest to get to the
point where I feel like I'm going to be at my best, to have the
chance to do everything that I talked about wanting to do. And
tomorrow, hopefully, is just one step of many, you know. We've been
burdened around here for a lot of things, and it is what it is, and I
can guarantee you this: Everybody in the clubhouse is pretty excited
because we got eight new guys that don't really realize all that's
happened in the last few years. So one thing I know is every
postseason game that I've pitched, when I'm done, I know that I've
gone as far and as hard as I possibly can do. That's what it's all
John Smoltz Interview
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