Smoltz told he'll be starting Game 2

Smoltz told he'll be starting Game 2

MIAMI -- When John Smoltz left Dolphins Stadium after the Braves' regular-season finale against the Marlins on Sunday afternoon, the righty was confident he was going to start Game 1 of the upcoming National League Division Series.

Shortly after his team's charter flight landed at Hartsfield International Airport on Sunday evening, Smoltz was told by Braves manager Bobby Cox that he'd be starting Game 2.

While somewhat disappointed, Smoltz understands the decision centers around the uncertainty of his shoulder. He experienced stiffness during each of his final three starts and was waking up with the discomfort through Saturday morning.

"I just found out right after we landed," Smoltz said. "It doesn't matter to me. I think if there is any concern, then it gives them a little more flexibility. I thought the whole time I was pitching Game 1. But that's OK."

When the Braves begin the NLDS against the Astros at Turner Field on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, they'll send Tim Hudson to the mound to oppose Andy Pettitte. This creates a legendary showdown between Smoltz and Roger Clemens in Game 2.

With the schedule during this best-of-five series, the teams' only day off will come on Friday. That played into the decision made by Cox, who has been visibly concerned about Smoltz's shoulder over the past week.

There's obviously more confidence that Hudson would be able come back for Monday's potential Game 5 on regular rest. If the Braves were facing elimination in Game 4 and chose to come back with Hudson on three days' rest, they can certainly do so with more confidence than they would have with Smoltz.

"It's not a question of, 'Can I go?'" Smoltz said. "It's a question of, from day-to-day, 'Can this tightness, stiffness, whatever you want to call it, get better?' Right now, it's progressively getting a lot better."

Before Sunday, Smoltz had awoken the past few days with stiffness in his shoulder. While remaining upbeat, he now admits he was concerned.

"Three days ago, I'm sure you could see a little bit of hesitancy in me," Smoltz said. "But I feel a lot better now."

Some of Smoltz's confidence developed after he threw a 15-minute bullpen session that was relatively pain-free on Sunday morning. Just two days earlier, he wasn't able to throw as freely and easy.

Smoltz's discomfort is a product of the fatigue that's developed after throwing 229 2/3 innings. This was his first full season back in the starting rotation since 1999. He missed the 2000 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Before this year, the 38-year-old right-hander had spent the previous three seasons as a dominant closer.

While Smoltz is 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 14 Division Series appearances, Hudson also enters his start with some impressive credentials. He tossed nine scoreless innings against the Astros on April 19 and has allowed them just one earned run in the 16 innings he's tossed against them in his career.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.