Wary of arm, Smoltz bows out of Baseball Classic

Updated: January 10, 2006, 6:21 PM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- While Major League Baseball awaits word whether Cuba will be allowed to play in the World Baseball Classic, Atlanta pitcher John Smoltz says he probably won't be pitching for the United States in the tournament.

John Smoltz
Smoltz

Smoltz was quoted as saying in Tuesday's editions of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he's not likely to play.

"We all have concerns; everybody does," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said Tuesday. "We're going to do all that we can to be as smart as we can to get our guys in the best possible condition, principally pitchers, so they're less likely to have an injury problem that would set them back and set us back."

Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said Tuesday that the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control still hasn't ruled on the revised application for a permit to allow Cuba to participate.

Aldo Notari, the president of the sport's world governing body, the International Baseball Federation, last week sent the commissioner's office and the players' association a letter saying the IBAF won't sanction the event if Cuba is excluded.

As for the Braves, starter Jorge Sosa (Dominican Republic) and reliever Chris Reitsma (Canada) have agreed to play in the event.

Coming off a foot injury which shortened his 2005 season, third baseman Chipper Jones has committed to represent the United States. Outfielder Andruw Jones, runner-up in the 2005 MVP voting, plans to play for the Netherlands.

The 38-year-old Smoltz, who has had four operations, on his right elbow, pitched through right shoulder pain in the Braves' first-round playoff loss to Houston. He says he has no pain now but doesn't want to rush his preparation in the spring.

"I'm pretty confident, about 100 percent, that I'm not going to be playing in the World Classic," Smoltz was quoted as saying by the Journal-Constitution.

Smoltz could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"It's really tough for him," said Andruw Jones, who has been working out with Smoltz three times a week. "You're going to try to do a lot and you might injure yourself. It's more tough on pitchers than it is on position players. I know Major League Baseball is having a difficult time with all these superstar pitchers we have in the United States, finding some who want to play."

Schuerholz said he has not tried to discourage players from participating.

"We committed to baseball as an organization that we will support this," Schuerholz said. "No team has any different right than another team. If our players are asked to perform, we're going to support them. ...

"Obviously players have to be the ultimate judge as to their well-being and physical capability. Ultimately, they're going to be the ones that have to make the decision about what's right for them and their careers."

After four successful seasons as Atlanta's closer, Smoltz returned to the rotation last year and was 14-7 with a 3.06 ERA.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press