Pain might be needed flag

Bill's Rant

June 05, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz has not only been one of the most versatile pitchers in major league history, winning a Cy Young Award as a starter in 1996 and Relief Pitcher of the Year honors in 2002, but he has also had to coax two decades out of his right arm with a constant series of medical procedures and pitching approach changes.

It was announced yesterday that he's facing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder that might signal the end of his career, although he's not conceding that yet. But Smoltz has already had Tommy John surgery (ligament replacement) in 2000 and at least three other procedures dating back to 1994. Along the way, he has gone from being a starter to a reliever to a starter again, always looking to squeeze more innings out of his right arm.

And that arm has produced 210 wins and 154 saves and a 15-4 record in the postseason -- Hall of Fame credentials.

However, at 41, Smoltz is in so much chronic pain that he has trouble sleeping, playing with his children and just doing everyday chores. Whether athletes can see it or not, there is a life after sports -- a life that goes on for decades. Smoltz, an intelligent and devoted man, has the self-awareness to understand that, but his competitive nature has urged him on.

Now, his arm might finally be telling him enough is enough.

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