If his throwing sessions off the mound planned for this weekend in Atlanta go well, John Smoltz expects to begin a minor-league rehab assignment early next week and could rejoin the Braves — as a reliever — within 10 days.
The veteran pitcher, on the disabled list recovering from rotator-cuff and biceps tendon inflammation in his right shoulder, made about 40 throws from 90 feet on flat ground Wednesday and said he felt "very good."
"The future is brighter than it was two weeks ago for me," said Smoltz, who was concerned and downcast after leaving an April 27 start at New York with increased pain in his pitching shoulder.
An MRI two days later revealed severe inflammation of a biceps tendon and his rotator cuff. An injection, plus rest and rehabilitation, has eliminated the inflammation. Smoltz threw without pain three times in the past week.
He plans to throw from 120 feet Thursday, then move to the next step — mound sessions Saturday and Sunday at Turner Field. If that goes well, he'll figure out a minor-league rehab schedule with Braves officials.
"I don't know [exactly when he'll rejoin the active roster], but each day brings more optimism, and we get closer to getting in the games," Smoltz said. "I feel better, but there's still a lot to be determined. The adrenaline of a big-league game is so much different than anything else.
"So I'll look at it very carefully, and when I make the decision I'll be ready for the long haul, hopefully, and not just for a few weeks."
Smoltz, who turns 41 on Thursday, will move back to relief pitching instead of the starting rotation when he comes off the DL.
He thinks that one-inning stints will provide a better chance to stay healthy the rest of the season, rather than going back to trying to grind out five or six innings in a start before his shoulder pain becomes intolerable.http://www.ajc.com/sports/content/sports/braves/stories/2008/05/14/smoltzupdate_0514.html