Originally created 12/19/97

Smoltz may miss games



ATLANTA -- Following John Smoltz's elbow surgery, which will keep him out until mid-March, Braves' manager Bobby Cox indicated he expects to open the season without the right-hander in the rotation. Cox said Kevin Millwood would replace Smoltz, and he would look for a fifth starter during spring training.

"Somebody will win that job out of spring training," Cox said.

Cox suggested Bruce Chen, a young left-hander added to the 40-man roster this winter but who hasn't pitched above Class A, would be a candidate, along with another young left-hander, Odalis Perez.

Three years after doctors removed a large bone spur and chips from his right elbow, Smoltz underwent the same arthroscopic procedure when doctors discovered a small bone chip.

"I may miss one or two starts," Smoltz said. "It all depends on how quickly I get my flexibility back. There's no immediate rush. We'll do it at a pace that my arm allows. I should be ready in that first month (of the season) at some point."

Despite pitching in pain during the second half of the season, Smoltz said he had hoped to avoid surgery with some rest. But after throwing two weeks ago, he reported some discomfort in his elbow, and an examination revealed the loose chip.

Now, having undergone the same operation on his elbow twice in three years, Smoltz said he admits he may not be able to carry the same workload he has in the past.

"I pride myself on pitching a lot of innings and a lot of games," he said, "and that may have to change a little bit."

Following a season in which he pitched a career-high and National League-leading 256 innings, Smoltz said he was worn out by the championship series. Pain in his elbow caused him to miss a start during the first half, and it flared again in the championship series against the Marlins. Smoltz said he would not have been able to pitch had the Braves advanced to the World Series.