Smoltz lashes out at Braves
Published 10:06 pm Thursday, January 15, 2009
By By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA — John Smoltz returned to Atlanta on Wednesday to make it clear he’ll always cherish the city that has been his home since 1988.
But the pitcher said Braves’ management took him for granted this offseason, and that helped push him to accept a $5.5 million, one-year contract from the Boston Red Sox as he recovers from major shoulder surgery.
The 41-year-old Smoltz was back in Atlanta one day after his first news conference in Boston. He said the offers between the Braves and Red Sox were ‘‘not even close’’ and said the performance bonuses that pushed the potential value of Atlanta’s offer close to $10 million ‘‘were impossible’’ to reach.
Smoltz said ‘‘we wouldn’t be having this discussion’’ if the Braves’ offer had been close to Boston’s.
The Braves finished far out of playoff contention last season, when they lost 90 games and came in fourth in the NL East.
This winter, general manager Frank Wren has had to rebuild Atlanta’s rotation.
Tim Hudson is expected to miss at least the first half of the 2009 season after elbow ligament replacement surgery. Tom Glavine remains unsigned as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left elbow. Mike Hampton signed with Houston. And now Smoltz is with Boston.
Wren on Tuesday reached a preliminary agreement on a $60 million, four-year contract with right-hander Derek Lowe and finalized a deal with Japanese all-star pitcher Kenshin Kawakami. Wren traded for Javier Vazquez earlier in the offseason.
Wren has been looking for starting pitchers he can count on from the start of the season. Boston, meanwhile, looked at Smoltz as a pitcher it can bring along slowly with hopes he’ll be a factor in the postseason.
Boston’s approach quickly won over Smoltz.
Smoltz said he’s motivated in his rehabilitation by the goal of returning to the playoffs and World Series.
Smoltz was generally upbeat as he spoke with Atlanta-based reporters in the offices of his agent, Lonnie Cooper. The right-hander emphasized his intent to remain part of the Atlanta community.
Smoltz was traded from Detroit to the Braves in 1987 and made his Atlanta debut in 1988. He became the only pitcher in history with 200 wins and 150 saves, and one of only 16 with 3,000 strikeouts.
Smoltz, 210-147 in his career, has a long history of winning despite arm problems but he couldn’t pitch through last year’s shoulder troubles. He appeared in only six games, going 3-2 with a 2.57 ERA.
After the season, Wren was clear about putting together a new staff without counting on Smoltz and Glavine.
Smoltz said Wren delivered the same message to him.
Smoltz paused when asked if CEO Terry McGuirk or team president John Schuerholz have called to offer him good luck in Boston.