Sports Outside the Beltway

John Smoltz’ Season Ending Surgery

John Smoltz valiantly tried to fight through the pain but he’s now having shoulder surgery that will sideline him the rest of the season and, quite possibly, end his career.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz will have season-ending shoulder surgery, but he hopes to return in 2009.

Smoltz and general manager Frank Wren declined comment until the briefing, but the pitcher said on his radio show that he will miss the rest of the season. “I’m having surgery with the hopes of pitching beyond this year,” Smoltz told 790 The Zone. “We’re only kidding ourselves if we try to mess around any longer.”

Still, the decision to have surgery raises serious questions about Smoltz’s future. He turned 41 last month, and it would be highly improbable for a pitcher to come back from a major operation at his age. Smoltz had only returned from the disabled list on Monday, hoping to make it through the rest of the season as a closer after starting five games this season.

His loss was a huge blow to an Atlanta team already dealing with a rash of injuries to its pitching staff. The Braves went into Wednesday’s game 3½ games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. “Not having him at all for the rest of the season is devastating, flat out devastating,” third baseman Chipper Jones said. “Going into this season, I said there’s one guy on this club we cannot do without. That’s John Smoltz.”

The right-hander is the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves, and he reached another milestone this season with his 3,000th strikeout.

While on the disabled list, Smoltz changed his pitching motion, going to a three-quarters motion to ease the pain in his shoulder. He came on in the ninth inning of Monday night’s game against Florida with a 4-3 lead but gave up three hits and two runs, blowing his first save chance since 2004.

Manager Bobby Cox said the pitcher was “pretty sore” the following day, and Smoltz apparently decided that it was futile to continue his comeback even though he’s long indicated another surgery would probably end his career. He’s already had four operations on his right elbow, including Tommy John surgery that kept him out for all of 2000.

“I’ve always said that if it gets to that point, I don’t know the value of coming back,” Smoltz said Monday. “At the same time … the right choice will be made. It won’t be made emotionally.”

Truly a shame. Smoltz is a class act and the Braves sure need him.

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