- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2008

HE SAID WHAT?

“It’s just not a good idea to throw your boss under the bus, especially when that boss has had your back as much as I have had his.” - White Sox GM after manager Ozzie Guillen demanded personnel changes

TAKE YOUR PICK: Will the return of John Smoltz to the Atlanta bullpen be a success?

There just aren’t any more bullets in Smoltz’s right arm. The 41-year-old has logged nearly 3,400 innings on the mound and hasn’t pitched pain-free since 2002. He already has endured two stints on the disabled list this season with inflammation in his right shoulder. And though he is expected to have some success in retiring batters out of the bullpen, it’s difficult to imagine his arm holding up to an increase in pitching frequency.

He might not be the same dominant closer who recorded 154 saves in four seasons in the Atlanta bullpen (2001-04), but Smoltz still has good stuff, and his shoulder could react positively to the higher frequency, lower volume demands of the closer’s role. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt; Smoltz is a true warrior who has reinvented himself before.

The future Hall of Famer is near-certain to hang up his spikes at season’s end regardless of this latest experiment. But there is a reason to think it could work. Smoltz has spent the last several weeks working on a less overhanded delivery to reduce the stress on his right shoulder. If his elbow can hold up to his new “10 o’clock” delivery, there’s no reason Smoltz shouldn’t enjoy one last fruitful summer.

TWT FIVE - LEAD-PIPE LOCKS

1. Big Brown at Belmont: Quarter crack or not, the first two races haven’t been close, and neither will this weekend’s Triple Crown clincher.

2. Rafa at Roland Garros: Rafael Nadal has never lost a match on the Paris clay (25-0), and three-time French Open victim Roger Federer is only getting older.

3. Tiger’s Tour: Tiger Woods again will lead the PGA Tour in victories and win the Vardon Trophy for boasting the game’s best scoring average.

4. Patriots win AFC East: The Bill, Tom and Randy Show doesn’t even face tepid competition in the NFL’s doormat division.

5. Naismith to Hansbrough: There are plenty of skeptics when it comes to Tyler Hansbrough’s NBA prospects, but he’s a killer at the college level.

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