10/04/06 8:03 PM ET
Hoffman downplays individual feats
Focused on team goals, closer to be honored before Game 2
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
Smith and Hoffman will also be paired in a pregame press conference, and it should be a mutual admiration gathering with presumably no hard feelings from the ex-record holder."You'll have to ask Smith," cracked Hoffman. Hoffman hasn't been in a desperately tight postseason game since facing the Yankees in the 1998 World Series -- last year vs. St. Louis in the NLDS he mopped up in the last frame of a 7-4 defeat, but he fully expects to pitch with meaning in this best-of-five series, which San Diego trails, 1-0. "You wait for your opportunity," he said. "I'm ready to go, but if there's not a lead to protect, you don't get in. It's not fun just to get into games to get work. Hoffman expressed confidence in the Padres. They have been battle-tested thanks to postseason veterans, with the younger players feeling -- and surviving -- a stressful September. No question, he said, the Friars are poised to take Game 2 and even the series. "We understand it would have been nice to win the first game, but we didn't," he said. "It's not an end-all. We feel very comfortable with the club we have. We've been facing some big games the last month and this is the biggest game of the year."
The 38-year-old Hoffman converted 46 of 51 save chances this year to lead the league for the second time in his 14-year career. Smith, who lives in Shreveport, La., and is a Minor League instructor for the Giants, played 18 Major League campaigns for eight different teams.
Hoffman, who blew out his right shoulder in 1994, adjusted to decreased velocity on his fastball by bringing his changeup to the fore, and his domination of hitters continued.
While his fastball clocks a mediocre 88 mph, that slow, slower, slowest changeup in the mid-70s range keeps fooling the opposition, which hit .206 off Hoffman this season.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.