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Notes: Smoltz's focus on baseball

Notes: Smoltz's focus on baseball

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As he took his customary spot atop the mound and fired numerous fastballs toward the plate at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex Friday morning, all seemed right in the athletic realm of John Smoltz's life.

Through his words and actions, he showed no signs that his impending divorce has created any extra stress. And if all goes according to plan, this is the way it will be throughout what he knows could be his final season in Atlanta.

"It won't affect [me] one bit," Smoltz said after the Braves' pitchers and catchers had completed their first official workout of the spring. "We move on. We're going ahead. I've been through a lot in my life. I've always said, 'Baseball doesn't define who I am.'"

Last week, it was revealed that Smoltz's 16-year marriage to his wife, Dyan, was coming to a close. Out of respect for their four children, he says they will not talk about the specifics of the breakup.

Nor does Smoltz plan to talk about his long-term future with the Braves. Entering the final year of his contract, he refuses to provide an ultimatum similar to the ones that Carlos Zambrano and Mariano Rivera have provided their employers this week.

"I look at other people make their deadlines and make their statements -- 'If this doesn't happen by this [time]' -- but that's not me," Smoltz said. "I'm just going to enjoy it. I've been down this road so many times."

With so much uncertainty in his life, Smoltz has vowed to enjoy himself more than he has in previous years, when the mundane task of driving to the ballpark often caused him undue stress.

"An attitude is a choice," Smoltz said. "And if you make a choice to enjoy the little things that are going on, I don't see how everything else can't be viewed as peripheral. The joy and the peace that I have is indescribable, even in the midst of this situation."

With his 40th birthday approaching in May, Smoltz remains one of the game's top pitchers. During his two years back in the starting rotation, he's totaled 461 2/3 innings and never once experienced trouble with his right elbow, which underwent its fourth surgical repair after the 2003 season.

"I've got a lot of opportunities ahead of me," said Smoltz, providing no indication of any retirement plans. "If I'd have gotten one more year, three years ago, I'd have been tickled to death. But since going through that last surgery, I don't have a timetable."

Harrison impresses: As Matt Harrison prepared for his first big-league workout on Friday morning, he was seemingly nervous. But those nerves obviously didn't prove detrimental while he threw his first bullpen session in front of Braves manager Bobby Cox.

"He's going to be the real deal some day," Cox said shortly after Friday's workout.

While combining for 158 2/3 innings with Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Mississippi last year, Harrison surrendered 160 hits, registered 114 strikeouts and issued 33 walks. The 21-year-old left-hander, who is listed at 6-foot-4, has seen his fastball clocked anywhere from 89-95 mph.

Because Harrison has made just 12 starts above the Class A level, he comes to this camp as a long shot to win the fifth starter's spot. But that won't stop this non-roster invitee from attempting to make a positive first impression.

"You always want to be competitive and I'd definitely like to break camp with them," Harrison said. "But I haven't put as much time in as some of these guys have, so I don't expect to jump right in."

Another non-roster invitee that caught Cox's eye was Buddy Carlyle, who could also be considered a long-shot candidate for the rotation's fifth spot. In 13 games with Triple-A Albuquerque last year, the 29-year-old right-hander was 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA.

Stockman feeling healthy: Peter Moylan isn't the only Australian fighting for one of the final spots in the Braves' bullpen. His good mate Phil Stockman has also come to camp hoping to prove healthy enough to earn the spot.

Stockman impressed during a short stint with Atlanta in 2006. But after suffering a right leg injury on June 23, he was unable to continue pitching. It wasn't until last month that he learned his aliment needed to be repaired with minor surgery.

"It feels better now than it did after 14 weeks of rehab," said Stockman, who will be allowed to begin throwing again on Thursday.

Stockman, who has a fastball that has been clocked as high as 95 mph, is among six candidates fighting for the final two spots in the bullpen. The other candidates are Moylan, Joey Devine, Blaine Boyer, Chad Paronto and Tyler Yates.

Workout time altered: In an attempt to avoid some of the cold temperatures that existed during Friday's workout, Cox has decided to move the start of Saturday morning's workout back one hour to 11 a.m. ET.

"It will be a balmy 50 [degrees] by 11," Cox joked while warming up from Friday's workout that was staged amid temperatures in the mid-40s.

With the chilly conditions, the Braves had lefty Mike Gonzalez throw at about 80 percent strength. Gonzalez, who missed all of September with a sore left elbow, isn't expected to have any limitations once the weather gets warmer.

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

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