Notes: Smoltz continues to look sharp
Right-hander says fitness won't determine if he outpitches deal
DENVER -- If his first start since signing a contract extension that will keep him in a Braves uniform through 2010 is any indication, John Smoltz might just keep going beyond his new deal.
"If he wants to, he could," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He stays in such great shape."
In fact, in some ways, Cox says Smoltz is better than ever.
"He's added a couple of more pitches over the years,'' Cox said. "He throws a split, a changeup -- which he didn't have early in his career.''
Smoltz, who will turn 40 years old May 15, signed the extension on Thursday, culminating a lengthy negotiating process. His salary is set for 2008, there is a vesting option for '09, and a club option for '10.
Smoltz isn't ready to look that far into the future to consider the possibility of pitching at age 43 and beyond. He's too focused on the here and now, which has him off to a 3-1 start and five quality starts in his six games thus far this season. But the prospect has crossed his mind.
"I'll say this, it's not going to be a 'shape' issue," Smoltz said. "I am able to keep myself in pretty good shape. It will come down to how well I'm throwing the fastball, and my breaking pitches. "I will know when the time is right. I don't want to hang around and be a five-, six-inning guy."
Paronto health update: Chad Paronto, traveling with the Braves but on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right adductor muscle, is scheduled to make two rehab assignment appearances, one Monday for Class A Rome and another Wednesday for Double-A Mississippi.
If all goes well, he could be back in the Braves' bullpen by Friday, when a roster move could occur. Paronto was 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA and one save in six games before going on the disabled list. Left-hander Steve Colyer took Paronto's roster spot, and hasn't allowed a run in four appearances totaling 2 1/3 innings.
Lineup juggling: Brian McCann got a rare day off from starting, but only for some rest. "He's hitting the ball as hard as anybody," Cox said. ... With McCann out and Ryan Langerhans struggling (.049 entering Sunday's game), Scott Thorman moved up to the sixth spot, and answered with a career-high four RBIs. ... Chipper Jones is playing despite some tightness in his quadriceps muscle, but that hasn't slowed him offensively, as he entered Sunday's game with an eight-game hitting streak in which he was 13-for-35.
Up next: Right-hander Tim Hudson will pitch with a heavy heart Monday, as he takes to the mound against Philadelphia's Jon Lieber in a 7:05 p.m. ET start at Turner Field. It's his first start since the death of his grandmother and of college teammate Josh Hancock.
Tony DeMarco is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.