Bobby Cox prefers having John Smoltz in Atlanta's rotation but the Braves' ace made it clear in a text message to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he plans on coming back as a reliever.
I am planning on coming back as a reliever first, and more than likely for the rest of this year.
--John Smoltz text message
"I am planning on coming back as a reliever first, and more than likely for the rest of this year," Smoltz said in a text message to the newspaper late Wednesday.
While Cox said Wednesday that he was willing to consider the idea of Smoltz pitching out of the bullpen, the Braves manager clearly wants him in the rotation.
Asked Wednesday whether Smoltz could go back to being a closer, Cox said: "We are always thinking about it."
In the next breath, Cox added: "I like him as a starter."
However, Smoltz's text message makes it clear that -- at least for the time being -- when he returns from the disabled list, he plans on being a reliever.
The 40-year-old Smoltz went on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with an ailing right shoulder. He began the season on the DL with tightness in the back of his shoulder, but after being activated, he went 3-1 with an 0.78 ERA in his first four starts.
Smoltz, the only pitcher in major league history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday he would consider going back to relieving.
"Right now I'm sitting at ground zero, taking it day by day, looking at every option to help this team get to the playoffs and end my career the way I'd like to end it," he told the newspaper.
Asked how serious the discussions about Smoltz's role had been, Cox said Wednesday: "Who knows until we get the results of all this?"
Left-hander Mike Hampton, meanwhile, left a rehab start at Triple-A Richmond in the fourth inning when he was bothered by his injured chest muscle.
"Maybe he came out just in time," Cox said.
The manager was hoping Hampton could pitch for Atlanta on May 10 but said now the team will have to "wait and see."
Hampton allowed one earned run and three hits, along with two walks and four strikeouts, in 3 1/3 innings. He had thrown 71 pitches when he was forced out in the middle of facing a batter; he was supposed to be on a 75-pitch limit.