KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Atlanta right-hander John Smoltz threw in the bullpen for about 20 minutes Thursday and called the session his “best day” of the spring.
Smoltz said he is on track to make his first regular-season start on April 6 and said he had no recurrence of the shoulder stiffness he suffered on Friday, forcing him to be held out of a scheduled start for the Braves.
“I just needed some time for it to settle down. It has settled down,” Smoltz said. “Now I’ll approach it like anything else. I’ll take two days off, come down here and throw and just have my eyes on my next start on Sunday.”
Smoltz is expected to start the season on the disabled list. He hasn’t appeared in a major league game since March 15 so his time on the DL can be backdated.
Smoltz played catch in the outfield when he tested the shoulder for the first time on Tuesday, but he threw with normal effort on Thursday.
“I was throwing like I was preparing for a game,” he said. “The ball came out of my hand really good today. I’m a little behind on the control of some of my pitches, but that will come.”
Smoltz plans to come back to the Braves’ spring complex to throw in a minor league game before he starts for Atlanta against the New York Mets on April 6. The Braves, who open their season Sunday at Washington, have an off day Tuesday and won’t need a fifth starter before Smoltz’s first scheduled start.
Smoltz left Thursday’s bullpen session with renewed confidence and said he is determined not to worry about the possibility the discomfort in the back of his right shoulder could return during the season.
“It could but I’ve just decided I’m changing that approach. I’m changing that mind-set,” he said. “I’m going to go out this year and have a really good time. I’m going to have a blast and hopefully win a lot of games along the way. I’m not going to get consumed like I did before.”
Added Smoltz: “I’ve got a lot of pitching left. I can get caught up in sometimes thinking too much.”
The 40-year-old Smoltz originally was scheduled to pitch the Braves’ home opener on Monday against Pittsburgh after Tim Hudson pitches in Sunday’s game at Washington. Instead, Tom Glavine was moved up to the Monday game and rookie Jair Jurrjens will be the team’s third starter, followed by Mike Hampton.
Smoltz was 14-8 with a 3.11 ERA in 2007. He has pitched more than 200 innings in each of his three years back in the rotation after serving as the team’s closer for four years.