Cards' Smoltz: 'I could have pitched'
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals skipped John Smoltz's turn in the rotation Monday night after he complained of shoulder tendinitis two days earlier. The 42-year-old right-hander said he felt good enough to pitch but realized it was wise to take precautions.
"I'm not saying it's the most probable situation, but I could have pitched," Smoltz said. "So we're not taking any chances. It's progressed the way I thought."
Todd Wellemeyer filled in for Smoltz against the Florida Marlins, making his first start since July 26. Smoltz, 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA in four starts with St. Louis, thinks he's set to start Sunday against the Cubs, although manager Tony La Russa said he hasn't set his rotation beyond the three-game Florida series.
The Cardinals beat the Marlins 11-6 in the series opener Monday night.
Smoltz received an anti-inflammatory shot for the pain, which he said crops up from time to time. He was scheduled for a bullpen session Tuesday, which would help him regain a feel for pitching.
"You play mental games more than anything else and I'm used to those," Smoltz said. "'Oh, I haven't picked up a ball in nine days, How am I going to be?' I'm not like that. I just think I'm going to be like where I left off."
La Russa said the Cardinals haven't decided whether to use Smoltz as a setup man or as a starter in the postseason. One factor is the health of starter Kyle Lohse, who said he received encouraging results from an MRI exam on a forearm injury originally sustained in late May.
Lohse said the MRI showed no structural damage and he thought he might be able to make his next start, although his forearm doesn't feel 100 percent.
"I was a little worried that something might be wrong," Lohse said. "I don't know what normal soreness is compared to abnormal at this point.
"We know we can't hurt it. I've just got to keep working."
Lohse lasted 3 1/3 innings and gave up four runs on Saturday against the Braves in his first start since Aug. 21 after returning from the 15-day disabled list from a groin strain. A 15-game winner in 2008, he's struggled much of the year with mechanics after the forearm injury, sustained when he was hit by a pitch, and was 5-8 with a 4.83 ERA.
"It's hard to put a finger on," Lohse said. "The ball is coming out with the same velocity as it was before, I'm just fighting every pitch to try to get the same release out of my hand."
La Russa said every start Smoltz makes strengthens his case for a key role in October.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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