Major Leagues: Smoltz now with Cardinals
ST. LOUIS ó John Smoltz agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, giving the 42-year-old former ace a chance to rejuvenate his career in the middle of a pennant race.
Smoltz joined the NL Central leaders shortly after he cleared waivers, following his release by Boston. He was 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA in eight starts for the Red Sox.
General manager John Mozeliak said Smoltz would likely start Sunday at San Diego, and would probably get at least a few turns in the rotation. The GM said Smoltz didn’t ask to start as a “negotiating ploy.”
“He had very little demands,” Mozeliak said on a conference call. “He had no demands. From everything he had heard about this club, he was excited to take this opportunity. The reason for the start was just to get him work and know what we have.”
The Cardinals hope Smoltz can either fill a void as the fifth starter or provide right-handed relief in the bullpen. Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas and Florida also were said to be interested in signing the longtime Atlanta star.
“We feel that this is an opportunity to strengthen our pitching staff,” Mozeliak said in an earlier statement. “When you have an opportunity to bring the expertise and experience of a future Hall of Famer to your club, it’s easy to see why we are excited about the prospects of what John Smoltz can do to improve our team’s chances as we approach the stretch drive.”
One of the best big-game pitchers of his era, Smoltz is expected to join the team Thursday when St. Louis plays at San Diego. The former Cy Young winner is the latest high-profile acquisition ó with Matt Holliday ó in a makeover that helped the Cardinals stretch their division lead to six games over Chicago.
The risk for the Cardinals is small ó Boston is responsible for the bulk of the contract. St. Louis is on the hook only for a prorated share of the major league minimum, about $100,000 through the rest of the season.
The Cardinals lobbied Smoltz with telephone calls from manager Tony La Russa, pitching coach Dave Duncan and infielder Mark DeRosa, a former teammate in Atlanta.