As the great ’80s band Go West sang, “first night stage fright always hypnotizes.” While it’s not nearly as deep or profound as LMFAO’s “I’ve gotta plan, what’s your cell, we playing naked Twister back in my hotel,” I feel it neatly encapsulates John Smoltz’ first outing for the Boston Red Sox.
Since he signed with us, he’s been touted as the next big reclamation project. A guy who’s been to Octobertown and knows how to act when a pennant’s on the line. A guy who’s had every minor league start over the past few weeks broken down and analyzed like election night results. So I’ll give him the mulligan for that jittery first inning last night, in which he gave up four runs and looked exactly like a guy coming off the disabled list three months into the season. Of course, he did manage to plunk ex-Yankee Nick Johnson, so we certainly can’t call that first inning a complete failure.
That said, the guy I’m more impressed with is the guy who showed up for the second through fifth innings–especially his last inning of work in which he struck out the side, and looked a lot more like “Classic Smoltz.” I’m betting that’s the guy we see more of from this point forward. And so is Smoltz.
“There’s been so much going on in the last eight days, I’m kind of glad it’s over so I can resume the five-day rotation and do what every pitcher does,” Smoltz said, “and that’s make improvements from game to game. Within a few starts, I’ll be honed in to where I want to be.”