SAN DIEGO - John Smoltz got good news Friday when an MRI showed no major damage to his right rotator cuff. The test, which was taken by team doctors in Atlanta, showed only inflammation in the shoulder.
Still, the Braves put the pitcher on the 15-day disabled list Friday to open up a roster spot for this weekend's series against the San Diego Padres.
"It has nothing to do with his shoulder," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We didn't want to (put him on the DL), but we have no choice. We don't have enough pitching right now."
The first seven games of Atlanta's current road trip were taxing on the bullpen. Putting Smoltz on the DL allowed the Braves to call up prospect Jo-Jo Reyes to start today's game without having to send reliever Joey Devine back to the minors.
And it will only delay Smoltz's next start by one more day. Since the DL stint is retroactive to July 3, Smoltz will be eligible to return on July 18. He was previously scheduled to make his next start on July 17, having already decided to skip today's start and the All-Star Game.
Smoltz has played through discomfort in the shoulder since he first tweaked it during a game on May 29. In five starts since then, he is 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA.
The 40-year-old left the team in Los Angeles on Wednesday and returned to Atlanta for Friday's MRI. He was planning to meet with orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., next week. But the Braves were encouraged by Friday's MRI results, which showed a "good" rotator cuff, and canceled the appointment.
"It couldn't have been better," Cox said of the test results. As for the adjustment to his starting rotation, the manager said, "It will give Jo-Jo a chance to pitch a second game, and Smoltz will come back after that. So it will be perfect."
Reyes set for debut
Reyes, 22, will likely start the fifth game after the All-Star break, July 17 against Cincinnati. But on Friday, the Braves were just anticipating his major-league debut today.
It was only a year ago that Reyes was pitching at Class-A Rome. But the lefty has since put himself on a fast track to the majors.
He led all pitchers in the farm system with 12 wins and 142 strikeouts last season, and was rated the organization's eighth best prospect entering 2007. He started this season at Double-A Mississippi, where he went 8-1 with a 3.56 ERA. And Reyes was just as good when called up to Triple-A Richmond, going 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA in four starts.
"He's going to go out there and give you everything he's got," said Braves catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who played with Reyes at Mississippi and in the Gulf Coast League in 2003. "He's going to spot all his pitches. Late in the count, he can go off-speed, he can do anything. It's going to be fun to see him pitch. I think he's ready."
Reyes is said to throw his fastball in the low 90s, and has good command of his three other pitches - curve ball, slider and change-up.
"Everybody likes him," Cox said. "He's got good stuff - sneaky, quick."
The team was expecting Reyes to arrive at Petco Park shortly before Friday's series-opener. He will be making his debut just two hours by car from his hometown of West Covina, Calif., just east of Los Angeles.
"He's pretty excited," said Saltalamacchia, who has been speaking on the phone with his former teammate about once a week this year. "I'm sure his phone has been ringing off the hook."
Like Saltalamacchia did, Reyes will have the chance to turn a temporary job into a regular one.
Pitcher Kyle Davies has been unreliable at the back of the rotation. Another poor outing by him on Sunday, combined with a good start from Reyes, will give the Braves something to think about over the break.
When Smoltz is ready to return, Cox said, "Then we'll decide who makes it."
Catcher Brian McCann was out of the starting lineup for a second straight game Friday due to a sprained right knee. He had an MRI taken in San Diego on Friday afternoon, the results of which had not been announced as of press time.
McCann said he injured the knee Tuesday against the Dodgers, but only decided to sit after having trouble blocking balls during Wednesday's game.
"It's just one movement that hurts," McCann said. "I can hit, I can run. But at my position, I'm squatting the whole game, and I need to be mobile and block balls and move side-to-side."
McCann was scheduled to review the MRI results with a Padres team doctor shortly before game time Friday, and said earlier that he was still planning to play in next week's All-Star Game.
Saltalamacchia started at catcher Friday.