Braves' John Smoltz Put on 15-Day DL
By KEITH PARSONS
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP)--Atlanta Braves closer John Smoltz went on the disabled list Wednesday with tendinitis in his right elbow, probably derailing his chances of breaking the single-season save record.
Team physician Dr. Joe Chandler stressed several times that the condition is not serious, and said Smoltz is not expected to have any lingering effects when he returns Sept. 8.
To take his place in the bullpen, the Braves recalled lefty Jung Keun Bong from Triple-A Richmond.
Smoltz, who had reconstructive surgery his right elbow in 2000, will rest completely for seven days.
``This is an enforced period of rest that John otherwise wouldn't take,'' Chandler said. ``This takes it out of his hands. This is not a serious problem.''
A year after setting the NL record with 55 saves, Smoltz has a major league-best 44 this season and was on pace to beat the all-time mark of 57 set in 1990 by Bobby Thigpen.
The Braves have the best record in the majors at 84-47, and they have a 14-game lead in the NL East.
``This is classic tendinitis,'' said Smoltz, who's had problems warming up because of the ailment. ``You have to do more to pitch less.
``I want to pitch in the postseason at my best. If this was a four-game lead, I wouldn't be doing this. This is a luxury thing.''
Chandler took Smoltz to see orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., earlier Wednesday. After an examination that included an MRI test, Andrews made the diagnosis.
To help with his recovery, Smoltz got a cortisone shot in the elbow. It's the third time since he returned from surgery in 2000 that Smoltz has gone on the DL with tendinitis, but the first time since 2001.
``You can't replace a guy like Smoltz,'' rookie starter Horacio Ramirez said. ``Smoltz is Smoltz. He did say something about his elbow, but he'd go out there and throw 97 miles an hour and you figured he's fine.''
Smoltz is 0-2 this season with an ERA of 0.89 and three blown saves. He hasn't pitched since Saturday in Colorado, when he struck out the side in the ninth for his 44th save.
``That's the frustrating part, because I consider this one of the best years I've ever had,'' Smoltz said. ``I'll just end it on a different note, that's all.''
Last week, in a tight three-game series in San Francisco, Smoltz never got to pitch as the Giants won all three in their final swing. Twice, Barry Bonds hit game-ending homers.
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox took a lot of criticism for leaving Smoltz in the bullpen during those three one-run defeats.
Smoltz said Wednesday that one of the reasons he agreed to go on the DL was to take some heat off Cox. Smoltz said he wasn't able to pitch in the series.
``I would say for the past two and half weeks, there's been little inklings of it, working up to it finally got to a point where Dr. Chandler and the staff said, 'I'm going to take this out of your hands,''' Smoltz said.
Smoltz won the Cy Young Award in 1996, when he went 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA as a starter. This year, he's trying to become the first pitcher to win the award as a starter and a reliever, and he's one of only 15 with at least 100 wins and 100 saves.
Tom Gordon of the Chicago White Sox is the only other active one.
Without Smoltz, the Braves have a shaky bullpen. Roberto Hernandez and Darren Holmes both are on the disabled list, and Kevin Gryboski and newcomer Will Cunnane have been the only reliable relievers other than Smoltz in recent weeks.
``Basically, it comes down to the starters giving us innings, putting less burden on the bullpen,'' Gryboski said. ``If our starters can keep pitching the way they've been pitching, there shouldn't be a problem.''