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Smoltz to start twice, including Sunday

SAN DIEGO -- John Smoltz wants to make one point perfectly clear: He is not finished.

Smoltz, the former NL Cy Young Award winner, joined the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday for the opener of a four-game series against the San Diego Padres and said he is ready to resurrect his career.

The 42-year-old Smoltz signed with the NL Central-leading Cardinals on Wednesday after he cleared waivers following his release from the Boston Red Sox.

"The reasonable expectation is you are going to get a nasty guy on the mound who will regain his nastiness," Smoltz said before the game. "Otherwise, I wouldn't be here."

Smoltz, who holds the record with 15 postseason wins, including playoffs and World Series, said his arm is not "totally there. But when I say I'm close, I really believe I am close."

But Smoltz knows he will have to improve dramatically on his dreadful performance with the Red Sox, where he was 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA after attempting a comeback from shoulder surgery.

"The only thing I can't do is justify the results, but they weren't as bad as they looked," he said. "But I felt I was close. I just didn't make the mechanical adjustments physically."

Smoltz has been told by St. Louis that he will make two starts, including Sunday against the Padres, when the Cardinals will evaluate his progress.

Although he has not been given any guarantees beyond those starts, Smoltz said he would pitch where he can do the most good, even if it means a move to the bullpen. The Cardinals have a need for both a fifth starter and a setup man for closer Ryan Franklin.

Smoltz pointed to St. Louis' ability to be patient with him as a main reason for signing with the team that leads the Central by six games over the Chicago Cubs heading into Thursday night.

"If I had to come to a team and be perfect the very first or second time, it wasn't going to be a good fit," he said. "If the luxury was there to show some patience and give me some innings, then the upside was going to be worth it."

Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas and Florida also were said to be interested in signing the eight-time NL All-Star.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said his expectations for the longtime Atlanta star are "that he does the very best he can. There's no doubt on our end that he's going to do that. We'll see how it goes."

Smoltz is ready to put his experience with Boston behind him as he attempts to regain the form that has led to a career mark of 212-154 with a 3.32 ERA and 154 saves in 21 seasons. He is the only pitcher in major league history with 200 wins and 150 saves.

One thing Smoltz said he learned from his comeback with the Red Sox, who released him on Aug. 17, was to relax.

"I made some mistakes coming back," he said. "I tried to prove some things that probably I didn't have to prove at a faster rate than most. I'm going to get back to doing what I didn't do in Boston -- having fun."

Since his release from the Red Sox, Smoltz has been home in Atlanta where he threw the ball three times in 13 days to high school players.

"I pulled my glove from the 1991 World Series out of my cabinet," he said. "I didn't have cleats or anything."

He said he spent most of the time watching the teams that showed interest in signing him on television.

Smoltz made his major league debut with the Braves in 1988 and spent his entire career in Atlanta before signing a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Red Sox in January. Still recovering from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss most of the 2008 season, he didn't pitch until June, and never got on track in Boston.

"I think part of it was how hard I tried to prove other people wrong," he said. "I tried too hard, I made some mistakes. I tried to do more and more every start out and created some bad habits."