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Monday, May 12, 2008
Smoltz throws for second straight day, hopes to join bullpen by late May

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Atlanta ace John Smoltz is throwing again and hopes his injured rotator cuff heals enough to let him move into the Braves bullpen later this month.

John Smoltz

Smoltz

Smoltz threw 45 pitches from 60 feet at PNC Park on Monday, a day after throwing 25 pitches from about 40 feet.

Until this weekend, Smoltz had not thrown since lasting only four innings against the Mets in a 6-3 loss on April 27. Smoltz said after that game that discomfort in his shoulder prevented him from throwing properly.

Smoltz was diagnosed with inflammation in his rotator cuff and a biceps tendon and told to rest while on the disabled list.

The right-hander, 210-147 lifetime with 154 saves, began the season by going 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA in five starts. He will return to the bullpen once he is ready to pitch again and plans to reduce his warmup pitches to about 20 to alleviate stress on his shoulder.

Smoltz was encouraged because his throwing sessions in Pittsburgh were pain-free.

"Everything went fine," he said.

Smoltz plans to take Tuesday off, then throw from 90 feet on Wednesday in Philadelphia. After that, he expects to be evaluated by the Braves medical staff to determine if he can resume throwing off a mound. If he is cleared to throw, he expects to be ready to pitch again in games within two weeks.

Manager Bobby Cox plans to use Smoltz again in late-inning situations. Smoltz turns 41 Thursday and Cox isn't sure the All-Star's shoulder can stand the stress of throwing 100-plus pitches every fifth day.

Smoltz had an NL-record 55 saves in 2002 and is likely to at least share the closer's job with Rafael Soriano, who is on the disabled list with a sore elbow. Smoltz had 144 saves as the Braves closer from 2002-04, plus 10 more in 2001.