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Smoltz’ post-start comments

06.17.09 at 9:30 pm ET
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John Smoltz looked good despite an apparant discomfort with the ball (which may or may have not been a minor league ball) in his final rehab start Wednesday in Pawtucket. He hit 91 on the gun with his fastball in a start that focused on doing as much with his changeup as possible.

In four four innings of work, Smoltz threw 61 pitches, 36 strikes of which went for strikes. He allowed a run on three hits while walking one and striking out two. After his start, the righty spoke with the media about how he feels going into his Red Sox debut next Thursday against the Nationals.

Smoltz on his feel for the ball in his final start:

“I felt really good, I just lost feeling for the ball during the game. The two innings I threw in the bullpen I felt great. I just lost the feel for the baseball and struggled with that, but overall I physically felt great. Sometimes you’€™ve got to fight the elements and I’€™m not a guy that doesn’€™t throw his fastball where he wants to and my split was all over. It was a little bit of a struggle feel-wise. I’€™m anxiously awaiting my [Red Sox] first start.”

On using his changeup deep in counts and the different pitcher he has become:

‘€œI had to work on that pitch awfully hard because that’€™s not a comfortable pitch, that’€™s not my pitch that I would go to. It was one more opportunity to get to it and unfortunately the grip affected that pitch a lot and I did not throw it well. I threw some good ones. My two innings in the bullpen were outstanding with it but nobody saw that. I’€™m overall pleased with the amount of work that I’€™ve put in to get to this point and now I’€™ll have to find a way for eight days to maintain some sort of program to get me ready for Thursday.’€

On having the majors on his mind:

‘€œIt seems like the last three games have been in a way where your mind is getting for something, something changes and you have to get ready for the moment that you’€™re in and I can honestly say when I was out there today I didn’€™t think I didn’€™t think one bit about pitching in the big leagues and setting up anybody for those kind of hitters. Now I will.’€

On the six-man rotation:

‘€œThat’€™s going to be [the Red Sox'€™] call. With me, more or less, I’€™ve got a job to do and I can’€™t worry about that.’€

On watching the Sox from the dugout:

‘€œI know I lead the team in innings watched [laughter]. Soon I’€™ll be able to get up and down and hopefully walk in and out [of the dugout] hopefully seven times and shake some hands. The environment in that place is [something] I’€™m comfortable with but I just hope it warms up. The hotter the better for me.’€

On Fenway:

‘€œI’€™ve pitched there as a visitor many times and felt that you had to be on your game, you had to make pitches because of the wall in the left and short porch in the right. It just always makes you feel like you have to make really good pitches and fortunately I’€™ve been able to do that as a visitor and now I want to do it as a home player.

‘€œIt’€™s going to be a long eight days and I’€™m prepared for that. I’€™ll probably have two good side sessions to work on some stuff and then I’€™m going to rely on the catching they’€™ve got up there. I’€™ve been excited to throw to [Varitek] for a long time and even George [Kottaras] . Throw to either one of those is something I’€™ve wanted to do since spring training and hopefully, with no hiccups,  that will come soon.’€

On his final rehab start and his time in the minors:

“I was trying to do too much maybe a little bit in this shorter game. I thought I did a great job intensity-wise in the bullpen acting like a threw too innings. I didn’€™t just want to come here and pitch four innings and then wait all that time. It’€™s not about saving my bullets, it’€™s about having those bullets as good as possible. It hasn’€™t flown by but it has been rewarding to this point to at least have an opportunity to at least engage in questions after a real game [laughter].”

On the progression throughout his rehab stint:

“For the most part, with the exception of today, I threw the ball everywhere I wanted to throw it. Today I don’€™t know if I threw too many first-pitch strikes, which is a big key for me. I can get a lot of quick pitch outs and a lot of quick action and so today was the only day in the six starts that I didn’€™t have a real good feel but physically it was probably my best day. There wasn’€™t too much grind getting ready, so physically that’€™s very encouraging because as you progress and get through some of those rough times, there’€™s been a lot of time where to get loose, I’€™m learning to do this all over again. Today was more encouraging having gone through not being at my best feel-wise. It really comes down to trying to find a way to execute the best pitch at the right time.

“Now it’€™s time to start getting ready for the things that I know will take me through not only a baseball game but through the season.”

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