Smoltz nets bonus for each start

Updated: December 12, 2004, 10:50 AM ET
Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Atlanta acquired All-Star closer Dan Kolb from the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday for prized pitching prospect Jose Capellan and a player to be named, allowing the Braves to move John Smoltz back into the starting rotation.

"We felt this was the strongest way for us to rebuild our pitching staff,'' Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz said.

John Smoltz
Relief Pitcher
Atlanta Braves
73 81.2 0-1 44 85 2.76

The Braves declined to offer salary arbitration to free-agent starter Russ Ortiz, who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday. Jaret Wright, who also won 15 games for Atlanta last season, has a preliminary agreement with the Yankees, though there might be a hitch in that deal because New York was still evaluating the results of his physical.

Regardless, the Braves knew they needed help for their rotation. They found it on their own roster in Smoltz, who won 24 games and the NL Cy Young Award as a starter in 1996 before moving to the bullpen full-time in 2002.

He set an NL record that year with 55 saves, joining Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley as the only pitchers with seasons of 55 saves and 20 wins.

Smoltz had volunteered to fill whichever role the Braves wanted next season, but his preference was to start. Schuerholz called Smoltz as a courtesy Saturday afternoon to let him know they were taking him up on the offer.

"I didn't want him to hear it from y'all,'' Schuerholz said. "He was delighted. He was very happy.

"It's nice when one of your leaders is willing to do whatever is needed. We need him to start,'' the GM said.

Kolb set a franchise record with 39 saves for the Brewers last season, going 0-4 with a 2.98 ERA. He also made the NL All-Star team.

The 23-year-old Capellan is said to have one of the best young arms in all of baseball. He went 14-4 with a 2.32 ERA at three levels of Atlanta's minor league system last season.

"There's still some things he needs to do with his changeup, maybe improve his breaking ball,'' Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "We both had to give up something that we both liked. We're trying to win games, too, but we also have to keep in mind what our plan is with our young players.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press