Smoltz pleased with outcome of surgery
Veteran righty hoping for opportunity to pitch again in the bigs
ATLANTA -- John Smoltz's future -- in the Braves' bullpen, he hopes -- won't likely be known for at least four months.
But in his first interview since undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, the veteran pitcher said Friday he was pleased with the outcome of the procedure and reiterated that he intends to pitch again.
"When we decided to have the surgery, there were some things that were unknown that could scare me away from, or lead me away from, making a comeback, and none of those things I've gotten word that they existed when they went in there," Smoltz said during a conference call with reporters. "There was significant damage in the shoulder, but all that's fixed, and all would allow me to pursue coming back."
The 41-year-old Smoltz met with noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala., and underwent season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery.
Doctors found that the labrum was the most damaged portion of Smoltz's right shoulder. Smoltz said he will pursue an aggressive rehabilitation program, and could begin throwing again in four months. There is no definitive timetable for a full recovery.
"They think that they've fixed it all, which translates into a chance to recover at whatever level I desire to recover," Smoltz said. "But at this point, I'm pleased.
"So that's going to be my motive, to be able to rehab the shoulder and continue to rehab it to the point where I find out in three or four or five months where that leads me," Smoltz added.
Although Smoltz acknowledged that similar operations have limited pitchers' flexibility, he said, "I believe that my flexibility and the things that I can do will enhance my chances to come back and pitch."
"When I get to those points of functionality, I want to be able to do some of the things where I'd be able to feel like I'm getting closer," he said.
Smoltz said the doctors excitedly told him no arthritic changes existed in his shoulder, which could have caused long-term problems. He was also told that the five or six issues the doctors addressed -- which included the AC joint, biceps and labrum -- had all been reversed.
After experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder in late April, Smoltz met with Andrews and was told that the discomfort was the product of severe inflammation of the right biceps tendon and inflammation of the right rotator cuff.
Smoltz moved to the bullpen in an attempt to reduce the strain on his pitching shoulder, but his comeback was thwarted after his first appearance with the Braves. He blew the save on June 2 against the Marlins, allowing two runs on three hits.
Hours after that game, Smoltz was in intense pain, and after meeting with Braves trainers and officials, he knew season-ending surgery was necessary. He made the announcement on June 4, but didn't concede at the press conference that the surgery was the end to his remarkable 20-year career.
But with the Hall of Fame likely beckoning and his body aging, Smoltz isn't dead-set on proving he can make another comeback. That's not to say he wouldn't relish the opportunity to pitch again, though.
"If it's meant to be then I'm going to do it," Smoltz said. "If it's not, then it's no big deal. The ability to go out there and compete, and, you know, do it at a high level, I would welcome that if it's still afforded to me."
Said Braves general manager Frank Wren: "John's a competitor and that's what has made him so great throughout his career."
Smoltz will rejoin the Braves when they return from their four-city, 10-game road trip.
Ryan Lavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.