Originally created 01/08/98

Smoltz working out for return this spring



ATLANTA -- It's all very familiar to John Smoltz.

For two hours every day he endures a regimen of stretching exercises and resistance work, attempting to strengthen his elbow and shoulder following December surgery. This is not new ground for the Atlanta Braves' right-hander, who underwent a similar arthroscopic procedure in September 1994, then went 12-7 with a 3.18 ERA in '95.

"I don't think it will take me a long time to catch up," Smoltz said. "Once I get on a throwing program and strengthen my arm, I don't think I'll be all that far behind."

The procedure to remove a bone chip wasn't as extensive as the '94 surgery, but it still will cause Smoltz to probably miss his first start or two. He plans to skip pitching coach Leo Mazzone's early throwing program, which begins Feb. 2 at Turner Field, then start to throw when he reaches the team's new spring training headquarters at Disney World in mid-February.

"I don't want to miss a start, but if I miss one or two, it's not a big deal," Smoltz said. "I'm sure there will be bumps along the road, but if I can repeat the '95 season, I'll be ecstatic because that was a post-surgery season and I was very happy with it."

Smoltz works at strengthening his arm at a rehabilitation center near his Atlanta-area home, a facility that Denny Neagle and former Brave Terrell Wade also are using following their surgeries. So far, the rehabilitation has proceeded according to plan, and Smoltz hopes to be ahead of schedule by the time spring training opens.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to start with fresh body parts and keep them that way," he said, joking.

But even if he returns sooner than expected, he realizes his elbow is sending him a message. Having endured two surgeries in three years, he understands he'll have to tone down his aggressive nature and shoulder less of the load.

"I have to change my ways," Smoltz said. "I'm not 21 anymore. My work habits and my aggressive nature will have to change a little. I still think I can pitch a lot of innings, but not so much. Early on, I probably won't push for the extra inning or go the extra mile."

TUNING UP:

While Smoltz will miss Mazzone's throwing program, the pitching coach expects 14 to 15 pitchers to be on hand to tune up for spring training.

"It's even more important this year with spring training starting earlier and the season starting earlier," Mazzone said. "It's a chance to get some work done in a low-key and enjoyable atmosphere."

GLAVINE HEALTHY:

Tom Glavine, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees and his right ankle following the season, says there is no pain in either leg. But he hasn't tested his strength by running and probably won't until he reaches spring training.

"You don't know what will happen the first time you go out and run on it," he said. "But I've been increasing my workouts and there's been no pain and no problems."

ADDITIONS:

The Braves added some experience to their scouting department by naming Dick Balderson, the former Rockies vice president for player development, as a major league scout. Balderson has worked in a variety of positions with the Royals, Mariners, Cubs and Rockies and primarily will scout the National League for the Braves.

CHANGES:

The Braves have made some changes among their minor league managers and coaches.

Chino Cadahia, the Braves' minor league catching coordinator last year, has been promoted to minor league field coordinator. Jerry Nyman will fill the role of roving minor league pitching instructor during the first half of the season, then return to Short A Eugene as pitching coach. Mike Alvarez will take over as pitching coach at Double-A Greenville, and Bill Slack will work with the pitchers at Rookie League Danville.

Former Dodger Franklin Stubbs, a coach at Danville last year, has been promoted to manager. Former Braves farmhand Bobby Moore has been named a coach for the Class A Danville '98 team, which will play in the new Myrtle Beach stadium in 1999.

Rick Albert, who managed Danville last year, was named manager of the Gulf Coast League club, replacing Frank Howard.