Notes: Smoltz comfortable at own pace
Veteran uses simulated game to get feel for offspeed pitches
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While beginning his behind-the-scenes Spring Training preparations on one of the back fields at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Friday morning, John Smoltz found comfort with some offspeed pitches and the freedom of a simulated game.
"I'm just going to keep doing the things that I want to do," Smoltz said after throwing 42 pitches in the simulated two-inning outing that might have included seven outs.
Smoltz's plan is to spend the next few weeks preparing himself away from the Grapefruit League scene, where he likely wouldn't be able to harness his competitive nature. This personally devised plan was wholeheartedly approved by Braves manager Bobby Cox, who says Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and many great pitchers from yesteryear prepared for seasons in this same manner.
"I just create what I want to create," Smoltz said. "My plan is to go out and find my arm slot and those pitches that I've talked about."
Those pitches Smoltz has talked about over the past few weeks are his changeup, curveball and two-seam fastball. All were on display during this simulated game that was staged against Brayan Pena, Javier Guzman, Brent Lillibridge and Diory Hernandez.
Realizing the need to add some offspeed pitches as he nears his 41st birthday, Smoltz is looking to find the feel necessary to throw each of these pitches. The veteran feels his career-long struggles with these pitches are a product of the fact that he does everything with maximum effort.
In this simulated setting, he felt comfortable throwing a series of curveballs to Pena after getting ahead 0-2. Smoltz ended up walking him. But when the curveball proved much more effective later in the afternoon, his ability to continue tinkering with it, without consequence, proved beneficial.
Smoltz, who joked he should wear a shock collar that would activate every time he throws a pitch max effort this year, was also pleased with the sink he got on his two-seam fastball and changeup.
"I threw every pitch I have today, and I normally don't do that in a Spring Training game because it's too hard," said Smoltz, who will throw another simulated game on Wednesday and not appear in a Grapefruit League game before March 15.
Cox pleased with Jurrjens, Carlyle: Back on the main field at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, the Braves claimed a 10-3 win over the Dodgers. Making his first appearance since being acquired via trade from the Tigers in October, Jair Jurrjens allowed one earned run and two hits in two innings.
"He's a good looking pitcher," Cox said. "Anybody who can locate the fastball like he can is going to win some games. At an early age, he's mastered that. I liked what I saw."
Jurrjens, who admitted he was nervous pitching for the first time since being acquired by the Braves, wasn't pleased with the bite of his slider. The only Dodger to score against him was Matt Kemp, who reached on an infield single after falling behind with an 0-2 count.
While Jurrjens has been widely mentioned as a top candidate for one of the final rotation spots, Buddy Carlyle has become a forgotten candidate. But the right-hander, who won eight games for Atlanta last year, impressed with two perfect innings that needed just 17 pitches on Friday.
"Buddy looked great," Cox said. "He located everything. He made some great pitches."
Javy's solid debut: Javy Lopez seemed to get the loudest ovation when Friday's lineups were announced, and he showed his appreciation by hitting a two-run homer off Esteban Loaiza in his first Grapefruit League at-bat of the season. Lopez, who previously played in Atlanta from 1993-2003, is bidding to be the backup catcher.
Lopez's only blunder came in the fifth inning, when he inadvertently signaled for shortstop Yunel Escobar and second baseman Kelly Johnson not to cover second base during an attempted steal. The miscommunication led to him throwing to an uncovered base when former Atlanta shortstop Rafael Furcal was racing into second.
"Javy had a great outing," Cox said. "He did a great job catching. The throw at second, he just got our signs messed up."
Twenty players signed: The Braves announced the signings of 20 non-arbitration-eligible players on Friday. Those signed were right-handed pitchers Manny Acosta, Blaine Boyer, Carlyle, Jairo Cueves, Jurrjens, Charlie Morton, Chris Resop, Zach Schreiber and Phil Stockman; left-handed pitchers Chuck James, Jo-Jo Reyes, Jeff Ridgway and Royce Ring; catcher Clint Sammons; outfielders Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Jones; infielders Escobar, Kelly Johnson and Martin Prado.
Champion Stadium christened: Before Friday's game, Disney officially renamed the ballpark at their Wide World of Sports complex Champion Stadium. Champion, a popular athletic apparel company, has in-park signage around the scoreboard and on the visitors' dugout.
Up next: Tom Glavine will make his Grapefruit League season debut when he starts Saturday's 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Astros at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla. Glavine is returning to the Braves for the first time since signing with the Mets before the start of the 2003 season. The 41-year-old southpaw spent his first 16 Major League seasons with Atlanta.
The game will be broadcast on Gameday Audio and in the Atlanta area on WGST 640 AM and 94.9 The Bull.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.