Braves' Smoltz could be out of action longer than expected

ATLANTA -- Braves ace John Smoltz still has inflammation and discomfort in his right shoulder, leaving him unsure when he'll be able to pitch again.

"It could be anywhere between the [late May] timetable I discussed and a lot longer," Smoltz told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for Monday's editions.

Smoltz has been on the disabled list since April 29. He hopes to learn more after throwing on the side Tuesday.

The 41-year-old Smoltz reported problems after his bullpen sessions Thursday and Saturday. He has a long history of pitching well while dealing with mild discomfort and said that if all goes well Tuesday, his plans for a minor league rehab stint this month "could very easily fast-track."

Smoltz has been on the disabled list twice this season with a sore right shoulder. He says his current three-week stint could grow much longer if his attempts to throw make the trouble worse.

"See, if I keep creating more [inflammation] there's my answer," he said Sunday. "That's just what I have to deal with. … I have to deal with my body showing me a reaction, whether it been a day later or two days later. Until I have that answer I can't really follow anything else."

"If physically I can make the adjustments, I will. If I physically can't make the adjustments, then there's no medicine, physical treatments that will help. … I've still got time."

Smoltz, 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA in five starts, plans to return as the closer, the role he held when he recorded 154 saves from 2001 to '04.

Rafael Soriano, who opened the season as the closer, has been on the disabled list since April 9 with persistent elbow soreness. He also plans to throw on Tuesday.

Left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez, recovering from Tommy John surgery in his left elbow last year, could return within a few weeks and possibly share saves opportunities with Smoltz or fill-in closer Manny Acosta.

Smoltz had an NL-record 55 saves in 2002.
As a closer for the Braves during 2001-04, Smoltz had 154 saves. He is an eight-time All-Star, the 1996 NL Cy Young Award winner and owns a 210-147 lifetime record.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.