Tuesday, May 27, 2008

John Smoltz to Halt Rehab, Rejoin Braves

An additional rehabilitation appearance by Braves hurler John Smoltz -- as recently as Monday thought to be a 50-50 option -- has evidently been rejected and Smoltz likely will return to the team forthwith, MLB News Online has learned.

Expect Smoltz to join the team during the Braves ongoing road trip, with a potential that he could appear out of the bullpen as soon as the series against Milwaukee, and no later than the end of the week, an organizational source said.

Smoltz, 41, has been observed experimenting with a lower arm angle to hasten his return, but early success with it may portend of trouble.

While in active rehab, Smoltz threw to hitters this past week but was mum on his progress afterwards in what is tantamount to a media blackout, with even his handlers reticent after Smoltz allowed one hit on 12 pitches for Double A Mississippi in a road game against the Smokies in Kodak, Tenn.

Some tightness Smoltz reportedly was feeling Sunday is not the critical issue. More important was the fact that he changed his arm angle during the outing, indicating he is not free of pain in his pitching shoulder. It's quite possible this points to the beginning of the end for the Cooperstown-bound Smoltz, according to an independent medical assessment based in part on archival data and general medical histories.

When a pitcher in this class of talent changes his pitching motion, it can induce series of adverse biomechanical events to the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, and elbow, such as in the case of Hall of
Famer Sandy Koufax.

Koufax was struck by a batted ball in the foot which resulted in his having to favor the injury in order to pitch, ruining his arm and unraveling his career. There is no way to know if this is absolutely cause and effect with either Koufax or Smoltz, but when a pitcher of this caliber sees a necessity to alter his motion, after having paid the bills with it for so many years, there is reason to believe his undoing is right around the corner.