Making his way back from shoulder surgery, John Smoltz tossed 3.1 innings of one-run ball last night at Double-A and said afterward that he should be ready to join the Red Sox's rotation following three more minor-league rehab starts.
That would put him on track for a mid-June debut with the Red Sox and Smoltz generally seemed fairly pleased with last night's outing, but several scouts in attendance had a much different take:
He's not the John Smoltz we all know and love, that's for sure. That fluid arm action he had, it's kind of restricted. He's kind of pushing the ball. You could see the shoulder is not 100 percent. His velocity was 87 to 90 mph. He still throws five decent pitches. But he's probably a fourth starter at this point unless his arm speed and fluidness comes back and his velocity takes a jump.
I would have some concerns about his breaking stuff. He still commands the ball well, but he had a fringe-average fastball, an average curveball at best, a little bit better than average slider, a little changeup. His split, the best ones were in the dirt. The ones that were strikes were just average. They weren't swing-and-miss pitches.
Those scouting reports certainly don't sound encouraging, but he's two starts into a six-week rehab assignment and the Red Sox signed him knowing full well that he wouldn't be throwing 94-mph fastballs with sharp breaking stuff in mid-May. In fact, Smoltz throwing "87-90 mph" with "five decent pitches" at this stage of his recovery may actually qualify as positive news.