Smoltz, Francona encouraged after outing

Smoltz, Francona encouraged

BOSTON -- When a potential Hall of Famer like John Smoltz fires three shutout innings in a Class A rehab start -- as the righty did on Thursday night -- it's hard to read too much into it. But the report that manager Terry Francona received went beyond the box score, and both the club and the pitcher had nothing but enthusiasm about the way the outing went.

"It sounded like he was very excited," Francona said of Smoltz's first official rehab outing. "It sounded like he stayed in his delivery [and his] velocity was maybe even better than expected. I think he did very well. I think everybody all the way through felt really good about it, and especially him, which is probably more important than anything."

What was that velocity?

"He hovered around 90, 91, with some 92s -- that's not too bad," Francona said. "He could pitch in the big leagues with that and probably win. He could probably pitch in the big leagues at 84 and win. But that's a good sign, and he held it all the way through."

Smoltz will likely pitch for Double-A Portland in Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday, though details are still in the process of being ironed out.

The rehab clock for Smoltz expires on June 19, which means the Red Sox must activate him by then.

Smoltz underwent right shoulder surgery last June while he was still with the Atlanta Braves.

"The first three [rehab starts] you'll probably see, again, just trying to build endurance, stamina, obviously as he progresses through the higher Minor Leagues," Francona said. "Ultimately, we're just trying to get him to build his arm strength and maintain as he progresses, so you don't want see him go too fast.

"At some point, you'll probably see him repeat [a step], just because every pitcher goes through a time where they get that dead arm, like the third or fourth start in Spring Training," Francona said. "Again, we might even send him back to [Class A] Augusta for a start. Again, those are things we'll talk to John about, but it doesn't hurt to tell you now so your eyebrows don't go up and think he got hurt. There's different feelings for accomplishing different things. But we want to talk to him about it also."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.