Braves happy not to face Smoltz

Updated: June 19, 2009, 6:43 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

John Smoltz's former Atlanta Braves teammates are glad -- for Smoltz and themselves -- that they won't have to face him in his Boston Red Sox debut, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Red Sox and Braves, yearly foes in interleague play, are scheduled to meet this weekend at Fenway Park and next weekend at Turner Field. But Smoltz, who pitched 20 seasons in Atlanta, will make his Red Sox debut on Thursday, June 25, against the Washington Nationals.

[+] EnlargeJohn Smoltz
AP Photo/Stew MilneJohn Smoltz, seen Wednesday in a minor league rehab start, is not scheduled to face his Braves ex-teammates.

According to the report, Chipper Jones, Smoltz's longtime teammate in Atlanta, said it would have been like the movie "For The Love Of The Game," in which Kevin Costner's character has to pitch against an old friend with a no-hitter on the line. While Jones has batted against former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, he said it would be harder to hit against Smoltz.

"I was closer with John," Jones said, according to the report. "John and I play golf every spring, we've gone fishing. We've done all sorts of things together over the course of our time together. I always thought in the back of my mind that John and I would be together until we retire."

Jones also thought it was wise for the Red Sox not to put Smoltz in that position, according to the report.

"Smoltzie is a guy who gets pretty geeked up to begin with, and he hasn't pitched in a long time," Jones said, the newspaper reported. "He's going to have a lot of extra emotion and adrenaline going in his first few starts. The added pressure of pitching against his former team, in his former city and the place he's been an icon for so long, facing so many of the guys that he's gone to war with over the years -- I think it would probably be in their best interest for him not to pitch."

Jeff Francoeur, who is friends with Smoltz, said he would have enjoyed facing him in Boston, but not in Atlanta, according to the report.

"If he'd been pitching a month or two, it wouldn't have been that big of a deal," Francoeur said, according to the report. "But it'd be tough to do that to a guy like him to make his first start against us. ... He doesn't want to pitch against Bobby [Cox]. He doesn't want to pitch against us."

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