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Smoltz talks about beyond this year

06.15.09 at 1:17 pm ET
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John Smoltz has executed his plan.

The 42-year-old is on the precipice of doing something some believed wasn’t a reality, coming all the way back to the major leagues after torn labrum surgery. And it is for this reason there was an excitement in Smoltz’ voice every time he spoke in Philadelphia over the weekend.

Thursday, he will either be returning to the majors as a member of the Red Sox, or will be pitching one more time for Triple A Pawtucket, residing just days away form his momentous return to the bigs.

“I’m in a total new place in my life and my career,” he said. “And you know what? The unknown is so intriguing. It’s vast.”

Evidently, it’s vastness could be growing exponentially thanks to the success of Smoltz’ comeback.

While the pitcher says he won’t allow himself to think too hard and long about life after this season with the Red Sox, clearly the road map he set out prior to having his surgery a year ago is continued to be followed. And, according to Smoltz, that path doesn’t stop at the end of  the 2009 season.

“The reason I had surgery was not to just come back for one year,” he said before Sunday’s game at Citizens Bank Park. “Having surgery certainly quality of life was part of it, but I could have waited to have that. To have surgery at this point, when I did, and not try to milk anymore of the rest of that  season, the reason I did that was to pitch well beyond. I figured if I was going to have surgery and I can pitch one year, what prevents me from pitching two years. Something will have to really go wrong to say, ‘OK I did everything I could and it wasn’t working,’ Hey, I can totally sleep with that. If I was going to resign to the feeling everybody had that this was it, as an athlete it’s not even so much to prove  people wrong but saying, ‘Hey I’ve done this before.’ You know how many things I wasn’t supposed to come back from? People take it for granted now that it’s old hat. Oh, he did it again. People underestimated my ability to think beyond what conceptionatl opinion was. I’m just not one of those guys. I would never do anything I didn’t think I could do beyond a reasonable doubt.”

While Smoltz knows how the plan is trending, he also emphasizes that the here and the now remain the priority.

“Sometimes I sit there and go, at this current moment there isn’t going to be a next year, and then the next week there might be a next year and a year after. I just stop right there,” he explained. “I stop thinking about things like that because I used to do that all the time. I used to have things planned out three or four years in advance. There’s just no good in it anymore.”

Smoltz is bracing himself for both the praise and the criticism that will come with his return. It would be inevitable for anyone having the kind of career success as the 20-year veteran. But throw in the fact that the Red Sox have starters at the ready to replace anyone in the rotation who may falter, and it the magnifying glass becomes even more prevalent.

“If you’re looking at things, you can find whatever fault you want, and I’m sure that will exist with me,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of nitpicking stuff. They wanted me to go away so it was just a magical end and surgery ended my career. I wasn’t prepared for that.”

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