KISSIMMEE, Fla. — John Smoltz missed his scheduled start Friday because of tightness in his right shoulder, but said he would have pitched through the discomfort in the regular season.
Smoltz said he felt the stiffness in the back of his shoulder while throwing on the side on Wednesday. Braves manager Bobby Cox said Smoltz wanted to make the start against the Indians despite the discomfort.
"He’s been pitching super. There’s no reason to push it," Cox said. "We’ll see what happens."
Smoltz agreed it was smart to sit out the game.
"I’m not worried," Smoltz said. "It’s not worth taking any chances right now. I’m smart enough to realize that you don’t pitch through it now. You pitch through it during the season."
When asked if Smoltz might open the season on the disabled list, Cox said "I don’t think so."
Cox confirmed Friday he plans for Tim Hudson to make the season-opening start on March 30 at Washington. Smoltz had been expected to start the March 31 home opener against Pittsburgh, but the Braves have an off day on April 1 and won’t need a fifth starter until April 6 — the last game of a three-game series against the New York Mets.
It’s possible Smoltz could open the season on the disabled list and be activated for the April 6 game.
Jeff Bennett filled in as the starter against Cleveland.
When asked if the disabled list is a possibility, Smoltz said "I don’t know that for sure."
Smoltz spent time on the disabled list last July with soreness in his right shoulder, but he said this tightness is different.
Smoltz, 40, has had four elbow surgeries. He missed the 2000 season following Tommy John surgery.
The history of elbow problems may overshadow Smoltz’s streak of three straight seasons with 200 or more innings pitched since returning to the rotation in 2005. Overall, he has 10 seasons with at least 200 innings pitched.
Smoltz is the only pitcher with at least 200 wins and 150 saves. He recorded 154 saves in four seasons as the team’s closer from 2001-04 and has a career mark of 207-145.
Smoltz was 14-8 with a 3.11 ERA in 2007.
Smoltz began this spring with a different routine, opting to work on the back fields of the spring training complex, an area usually home to the minor leaguer players. He threw to batters in simulated situations where he could experiment with pitches away from the competitive atmosphere of spring games.
Smoltz has made only one spring start. He allowed five runs — three earned — in 4 2/3 innings in an 11-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays last Saturday. He gave up all his runs in the fifth inning and was happy with his outing.
"He wants to have a strong year," Cox said. "He wants us to win. He wants to go the whole season, so if there’s any little thing I don’t see the reason in pushing it right now."
The decision to hold Smoltz out of Friday’s game was first reported by MLB.com.