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No plans to skip Smoltz in rotation

07.26.09 at 5:31 pm ET
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After John Smoltz allowed six runs in five innings in a 6-2 loss to the Orioles that saw the Red Sox starter’s record fall to 1-4 with a 7.04 ERA, the 42-year-old suggested that his stuff is good enough to allow him to perform to expectations. Pitching coach John Farrell said that Smoltz’ problem has just been mislocated pitches, primarily his fastball.

“(The issue is) consistency of location. Today, just evaluating the pure stuff, I thought it was more crisp than at any time he’€™s been here this season,” said Farrell. “Yet against a good fastball hitting team, he made some mistakes out over the plate, particularly away, that resulted in four extra-base hits. But the action to his slider, which was very much a swing-and-miss pitch for him, was later and sharper and more powerful than it has been. But yet the bottom line is what matters”

While much of the solution lies in simple execution, Farrell suggested that there are tweaks to the approach from which Smoltz might benefit. Foremost, Farrell suggested that he needs to employ his fastball more aggressively inside.

“What do we do from here?” Farrell wondered. “I think there’€™s the ability or the need to pitch in a little bit more. While his stuff is improved over the last outing, or the previous outings, hitters one time through the order can start to look in one area. I think that was what was a little bit the case today, and when he wasn’€™t very fine in his location or in very good quality locations, we saw the results.

“While his velocity is good enough to pitch at this level’€”clearly it’€™s good enough ‘€“ it’€™s not the mid-90s where you have that margin of error that he might be accustomed to,” Farrell continued. “To combat that, commanding the baseball on both sides of the plate and not allowing hitters to look in one area solely, is where the improvement or adjustment lies.”

Smoltz believes he has the stuff to compete effectively on a team with postseason aspirations. His manager and pitching coach echoed that assessment. As such, Farrell said that the team has no plans to skip Smoltz in the rotation to allow him to iron out his approach.

“At this point, that’€™s not even being considered,” said Farrell. “If there was a drop-off physically just through either naked eye or what velocities are telling us, that would be a different situation. But that’€™s not the case. You look at the amount of swing-and-miss he’€™s able to generate, yet because of the consistency of command, he’€™s frustrated.”

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