MLB Quick Pitches: It's All but Over for John Smoltz

Pat DeColaCorrespondent IMarch 25, 2010


What I’m Reading

• Tune in tonight at 7 for our unnecessarily extended sappy special, “Not Officially, But Close: The John Smoltz Retirement Story.” Sounds like a romantic-comedy.

•.No kid grows up dreaming of being a long-reliever. Much to his distaste, Andy Sonnanstine will begin the season in this role as Wade Davis has been named the Rays’ 5th starter, sending Sonnanstine to the ‘pen. No little leaguer wants to be a 25th man on the roster, either, but Hank Blalock has to be happy that he has more or less locked up the spot.

Florida’s Mike Stanton (this one, not this one) won’t be starting the season on the Marlins’ opening day roster, but hold tight. He’ll be there soon enough.

•Attention everyone! This is urgent news! We have a Dontrelle Willis sighting!

What I Think About It

• John Smoltz can still pitch. However, he basically knows that he has nothing left to prove and is having trouble finding the desire to get back out there at 42 and pitch another season.

Part of me is disappointed to know that "Smoltzy" is likely to be on the sidelines from now on, or more likely in the commentator’s booth (where he’s actually pretty solid). It was a tough situation to watch last year as he heavily struggled through all but one of his starts in Boston before mildly catching on with St. Louis late in the season.

It wasn’t exactly the way he would have liked to go out.

He’ll be called to commentating from a logistical standpoint, with his mind telling him that he’s done. But before the season is up, he’ll be called by his heart when he decides that he’s better than his last days in the league.

Even if he ends up “retiring” soon, don’t be surprised if around June or July we start hearing about how Smoltz is getting antsy to make a comeback. And then the next thing we know, he’s back with the Braves closing games, or something of the sort.

• "I feel like I've been a starter most of my life, I feel more confident as a starter, I feel like I'm a better pitcher as a starter," Sonnanstine said, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Well, that’s understandable, Andy. But I have to say, you didn’t look too comfortable as a starter last season on your way to a 6-9 record with a dismal 6.77 ERA.

The Rays are just ready to give Davis a shot right now, despite Sonnanstine’s solid spring and Wade’ sub-par March.

A big factor in the decision is the need for one of the two to step in and cover for J.P. Howell while he’s out for the next month. Tampa Bay felt Sonnanstine better fit the role, and things are likely to change when Howell comes back.

Hank Blalock, meanwhile, has been on the upswing during camp, putting him in favor to make the squad. He has only managed a sub .250 average thus far, but he has shown enough for manager Joe Maddon to turn his head and seriously consider Blalock as the 25th  man on the roster.

• Stanton will be starting the year in Double –A Jacksonville. But after he batted .333 with a .407 on-base and a .833 slugging percentage in 24 at-bats in seven Grapefruit League games, the Marlins can’t afford to keep him down on the farm for too long.

He’s still only 20-years-old, so he’ll have plenty of time to fine-tune his game. They just feel that he could use a bit more experience down in the minors, giving him time to figure some more things out and build confidence while tearing through Double-A.

Then, come late May or early June, he’ll most likely be up with the major league club, ready to start bashing and creating a natural rivalry with Jason Heyward of the Braves. (This is something that we’re going to be hearing about for a long time, I feel. We just need one more young OF in the NL and we have an A-Rod/Jeter/Nomar-like competition all over again. I’ll do some research and hand-pick the third guy.)

Plus, by keeping him down there until then, it will help them out on the arbitration side of things down the road.

• I’m officially on the “2010 D-Train... Train”

It’s nice to see him back on the horse this spring. He’s showed a tendency to, well, disappoint over the past several years.

He had another positive start today, going four innings and giving up just two hits and a run, bringing his spring ERA down to a miniscule 1.20.

Now, I know these are spring stats, which are usually 90% irrelevant, but the mere fact that Dontrelle is getting anybody out is a fantastic sign that at least part of his old self has returned.

He is still competing with Jeremy Bonderman (who starts tonight’s game) and Nate Robertson for the fifth rotation spot. I have a feeling that Jim Leyland is leaning towards Bonderman, but after today’s start especially, Willis can’t be overlooked anymore.


Follow Pat DeCola on Twitter!