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Smoltz happy with Grapefruit debut

Smoltz happy with Grapefruit debut

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- John Smoltz wasn't willing to admit he might have fatigued during the fifth inning at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Saturday afternoon. But despite surrendering five runs -- three earned -- and four hits to the Rays in 4 2/3 innings, the veteran Braves hurler was certainly willing to deem this Grapefruit League debut a success.

"I did everything I wanted to do today," Smoltz said. "There's nothing I look back and wanted to change."

Had this been the regular season, there would have certainly been some things Smoltz would have wanted to change about the fifth inning, during which he surrendered each of the five runs charged to him.

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But having thrown nothing but simulated games up until this point of Spring Training, it was much easier for him to be pleased with this outing, which began with him limiting the Rays to just two hits over four scoreless innings.

Smoltz's scoreless first inning began with a three-pitch strikeout of Elliott Johnson and ended with another strikeout of Jonny Gomes. The 40-year-old right-hander would record two more strikeouts on the afternoon.

"It felt just like it should have," Smoltz said. "I'm very pleased to go in there and pitch effectively and throw strikes. I really threw strikes the whole game until that last inning with a couple of close calls and I walked a couple of guys."

Smoltz's personally designed Spring Training program called for him to substitute his first three Grapefruit League starts with three simulated games. When he began this outing by throwing 33 of his first 46 pitches for strikes, there certainly weren't any signs of rust.

But when he issued consecutive walks to begin the fifth inning, he at least looked like somebody getting their first taste of real game speed. Reid Brignac followed with a two-run double. Four batters later, after Josh Anderson barely missed making the third out while flipping into the visitors' bullpen, located along the left-field line, Carlos Pena hit a two-run homer.

Pena's homer, which bounced off of Anderson's glove, was considered wind-aided by both Smoltz and Braves manager Bobby Cox.

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"I made some good pitches in the fifth and didn't get a couple of calls," Smoltz said. "But all in all, I felt pretty good. I made all of my pitches and got into the fifth inning with no issues. So it was a good day for me."

Cox was pleased with what he saw from Smoltz, who will make his next start on Friday when the Braves host the Indians. He plans to go six innings and then likely pitch just three or four innings during his final exhibition start on March 26.

"He threw real good," Cox said. "He was outstanding."

Unfortunately for Jair Jurrjens, who started Saturday's split-squad game against the Astros at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., he wasn't able to continue his outstanding spring. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed four earned runs and issued four walks in 2 2/3 innings.

Jurrjens, who has seemingly earned a rotation spot, hadn't allowed a run in his previous eight innings.

"I had problems with my control," Jurrjens said. "I think I was trying to throw too hard again. I fell behind in the count and that caused me to throw a lot of pitches."

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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