NEW YORK — John Smoltz may have thrown the last pitch of his storied career.
The Boston Red Sox cut the struggling Smoltz on Friday, a day after the New York Yankees sent the 42-year-old righty to yet another early exit.
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein traveled down to New York to personally tell Smoltz that the team had designated him for assignment. The move gives Boston 10 days to trade or release him.
Epstein "told him to go home and take a deep breath, think about how you want to move forward," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before Friday night's game at Yankee Stadium.
After more than two decades with Atlanta, Smoltz signed with the Red Sox in January, hoping he could recover from surgery on his right shoulder. After eight starts, the results were not pretty for a pitcher with Hall of Fame credentials: 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA.
Boston made the move while in a three-way race with the Yankees and Tampa Bay, and with Smoltz still searching for answers after one of the worst outings of his career.
"Pretty humbled right now, the way things have gone," Smoltz said Thursday night, after the Yankees chased him in the fourth inning of a 13-6 romp. "Time may not be on my side if this continues."
He was right. Smoltz was not at his locker at Yankee Stadium when Francona made the announcement, though his No. 29 jersey hung in his cubicle and his shower flip-flops were in his stall.
At 212-152 with 154 saves and a 3.32 ERA, Smoltz compiled a glittering resume after making his major league debut in 1988.
Along with aces Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, Smoltz helped Atlanta to its only World Series championship, won a Cy Young Award, was an eight-time All-Star and is the only pitcher with more than 200 wins and 150 career saves.
Maddux retired after last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Glavine, like Maddux in his 40s and a 300-game winner, was abruptly cut by Atlanta in June before making his major league return.
Smoltz was one of the best big-game pitchers of his era, going 15-4 with four saves and a 2.65 ERA in the postseason. It was precisely his ability to win those clutch games that prompted the Red Sox to sign him to a $5.5 million, one-year contract, even though they knew he wouldn't be able to play for much of the season.
Smoltz worked his way back through the minors, and made his Red Sox debut on June 25 at Washington. The last-place Nationals hit him hard and, except for occasional flashes, Smoltz never got into a prolonged rhythm.
Seeming intent on throwing hard and inside, Smoltz started well Thursday night against the Yankees. In the first inning, he got Derek Jeter on a grounder and struck out Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez.
But Smoltz lost it quickly, and the Yankees chased him with an eight-run burst in the fourth. Melky Cabrera hit a three-run homer, and Smoltz handed the ball to Francona after an intentional walk to Rodriguez.
"I'm not doing it right now," Smoltz said after the loss. "I'm a big enough man to stand up here and say I'm not doing it."