Smoltz brings questions with arrival
Veteran likely done with rehab; rotation speculation begins
PHILADELPHIA -- After right-hander John Smoltz made his fifth -- and likely final -- Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday, the intrigue could officially begin.
How will Smoltz fit into a rotation that already includes five established starters in Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and Brad Penny?
Red Sox manager Terry Francona refused to publicly speculate on the matter until he has a chance to sit down with Smoltz and the other pitchers involved.
"We'll figure this out," said Francona. "We've got a lot of different ways to go. We know what our options are. We want to make it work best for us. We have days off coming up. We can do a lot of different things. We want to do what's in our best interests. To do that, we have to talk to a lot of guys -- Beckett, Daisuke, Smoltz, Penny. We want to try to get some opinions on how they feel, what's in their best interests, and then we'll make decisions. It's not going to be able to be done a week ahead of time."
Smoltz allowed six hits and four runs while walking one and striking out six over six innings on Friday in Syracuse, N.Y. He threw 70 pitches, 56 for strikes. It was the first game of a doubleheader, so the six innings were a complete game in Pawtucket's 4-1, seven-inning loss.
Smoltz is expected to meet up with the Red Sox in Philadelphia on Saturday to discuss his next step.
The earliest he would join the active roster is Wednesday night against the Marlins. That is Penny's spot in the rotation.
In recent weeks, there was plenty of speculation that Penny would be moved in a trade. However, the right-hander has thrown the ball well of late, and his performance in Thursday's 4-3 win against the Yankees (six shutout innings) was his best in terms of results and velocity.
"You can see him getting back to that power that he had," Francona said. "To put up six zeroes against the Yankees, something's going right."
Francona also praised Penny's attitude and work ethic.
"You get to know guys," Francona said. "When they come through that door the first day of Spring Training, you want them to feel welcome -- it makes it easier for them to be better players. This kid has been such a pleasure. He just does everything you ask. He competes. He's getting better. He pitches until you take the ball away. I've enjoyed the [heck] out of this. He's been unbelievable."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.