Chipper: Not facing Smoltz for the best
Third baseman glad former teammate won't start vs. Braves
CINCINNATI -- Strictly from a competitive standpoint, Chipper Jones would have enjoyed the opportunity to challenge himself against John Smoltz. But at the same time, the Braves third baseman wasn't crushed when the Red Sox revealed that Smoltz isn't scheduled to pitch against the Braves either of the next two weekends.
"It's in their best interest for him not to pitch against us, and I completely understand," Jones said. "We can't throw it up and hit it on a day-to-day basis right now. So throwing Smoltzie against us makes sense in that he gives them a good chance to win. But I think for the good of John and the good of his progress, I think it's probably best."
Coming back from the major shoulder surgery that he underwent last year, Smoltz is scheduled to make his regular-season debut against the Natonals on June 25, which is one day before the Red Sox begin a three-game series against the Braves at Turner Field.
While making this announcement on Tuesday, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, "I don't know if it made a lot of sense for his first or second start to be against the Braves."
Right fielder Jeff Francoeur talked to Smoltz on Wednesday and came away feeling like his good friend wasn't too upset about the fact that he wouldn't be facing the Braves, who had served as his only Major League employer until he opted to sign with the Red Sox in January.
"It's not like he wants revenge against us," Francoeur said. "He's disappointed about the way things went. But I don't think he wants to pitch against [Braves manager] Bobby [Cox] and us. Plus he dominates against the Nationals. So that's' a good team to start him off against."
Understanding the reality that he's an emotional pitcher, Smoltz made it known that he didn't think it would be wise for him to make his first start in over a year against the Braves. Thus as his rehab process progressed over the past week, it seemed doubtful that he'd pitch against them during this weekend's series at Fenway Park.
Still before Tuesday, there was at least some reason to wonder if he'd make his second start of this season when the Red Sox come to Turner Field for a three-game series next weekend. But in the end, it was determined that it would be wise for him to avoid the adrenaline rush he would have experienced while pitching in Atlanta, a city that recognizes him as one of its greatest all-time athletic figures.
"I just think it's smart on the Red Sox behalf to not do that to Smoltzie, because he's a guy that gets pretty geeked up to begin with, and he hasn't pitched in a long time," Jones said.
Although he's already had the opportunity to face Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux after they left the Braves, Jones said he doesn't think he'd find the same comfort level while squaring off against Smoltz. "It would be weirder facing Smoltzie than the other guys," Jones said. "I was closer with John."
While playing together from 1993-2008, Jones and Smoltz formed a brotherly bond that led them to often exchange smack about what would happen if they ever had the chance to face each other.
But while contemplating the possibility, Jones thought about a scene from the movie "For the Love of the Game," during which Kevin Costner's character is a veteran pitcher who is forced to face one of his closest friends during the latter innings of a no-hit bid.
"Probably for the first time in my career, I wouldn't want to be that guy coming up to the plate in that situation," Jones said while visualizing himself and Smoltz in that same situation.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.