Smoltz to Cards, done
LOS ANGELES — Having already made several upgrades, the Cardinals are down to two areas of need: right-handed setup relief and the back of their starting rotation. On Wednesday they made a move that could address either, or at different times, both.
Right-hander John Smoltz has agreed to a deal with St. Louis for the remainder of the season, the club confirmed. It’s unclear what role he will fill, but one entirely conceivable scenario would have him starting for the Cardinals down the stretch, and then moving to the bullpen when and if they make it to the postseason.
St. Louis has seized control of the National League Central, holding a six-game lead over the Cubs with just under seven weeks remaining in the season. Any moves the Cards make at this point are likely focused as much on bolstering the team for October as for making it to the finish line. It’s possible for St. Louis to use a fifth starter as few as six times between now and the end of the year, thanks to six remaining off days.
Still, come Sunday, that fifth-starter spot comes up again, in San Diego. The Cardinals have not announced a pitcher for that game, though Mitchell Boggs took the last turn, on Tuesday night against the Dodgers.
The club has acknowledged interest for several days in the 42-year-old veteran, who pitched for Atlanta from 1988-2008 before signing with the Red Sox as a free agent over the winter. He struggled in Boston and was designated for assignment before being placed on release waivers. In eight starts with the Red Sox, he went 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA, though some of his peripheral numbers were quite strong. Smoltz struck out 33 against nine walks in 40 innings.
There were some strong indications he might be better suited to pitch in relief. Smoltz’s performance was worse as he got deeper into games, and he was much more effective against right-handed hitters than lefties.
However, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Smoltz would like to continue pitching beyond 2009, and to do so as a starter. Thus, everyone’s wishes could be fulfilled with a two-part arrangement. Smoltz could position himself for a starting job somewhere in 2010 by pitching well for St. Louis down the stretch. Then he could help the Cardinals win in the playoffs by setting up for closer Ryan Franklin.