Thursday, May 1, 2008

Smoltz's fantasy future

John Smoltz's recent shoulder troubles have to be a big concern to his owners. The veteran entered the season as one of the top 15-20 fantasy starters and was off to a fine start in 2008 until the pain became too much to bear. He's now on the DL with inflamation of the right rotator cuff and a biceps tendon, and there's serious talk of him returning to the closer role when he's healthy.

That move would certainly make sense. Smoltz thinks it would put less wear and tear on his soon-to-be 41-year-old arm. He's had great success closing games before (168 saves from 2001-04). And the Braves could certainly use him there, with Rafael Soriano battling his own health problems, Peter Moylan perhaps out for the year and current closer Manny Acosta (two saves, 3.95 ERA, 11 walks and nine strikeouts in 13.2 IP) no sure thing.

If Smoltz can get through this thing in a relatively short time (he hopes to be back in 15-30 days), you may very well be losing a top starter but gaining a top closer. You have to hold onto Smoltz, but start exploring other starter options.

And also, don't forget about Braves reliever Mike Gonzalez, who was once a closer candidate himself before being sidelined by elbow reconstructive surgery a little less than a year ago. The hard-thrower had a fine season as the Pirates' closer in 2006 (24 saves. 2.17 ERA, 64 Ks in 54 innings) and is itching to get back to the big leagues. Reports from his rehab have been encouraging, and though it's a long shot, Gonzalez might end up being the Braves' final option.

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