While throwing a side session Wednesday, Smoltz began feeling some stiffness in the trapezius region of his shoulder. He cut the session short with the hope that he'd remain able to pitch Friday.
Seeing no need for Smoltz to put extra stress on the shoulder, Cox ruled against him facing the Indians. But at the same time, the Braves skipper didn't seem concerned.
"John will be fine," Cox said. "He threw so much [on Wednesday] that he got stiff. He wanted to pitch, but I don't see why we should push it now."
If the stiffness persists and Smoltz isn't able to make his final exhibition start next week, he could begin the season on the 15-day disabled list but not even miss a turn in the rotation. Teams have the option to backdate the start of a disabled-list stint nine days before the start of their Opening Day game.
With the Braves scheduled to open the season on March 30, Smoltz could begin the season on the disabled list and be eligible to be activated in time to make his first start April 6 against the Mets. That would be the first day during the season that Cox would need to utilize the fifth turn in his rotation.
"Even if he pitches that day, it would be fine," Cox said. "It doesn't matter when we put him out there."
Since returning to the starter's role before the start of the 2005 season, Smoltz has been on the disabled list just once. That instance came early last July, when he decided it was time to rest his right shoulder, which had been bothering him since he'd tweaked it while throwing a warmup pitch May 29.
Smoltz says his current shoulder discomfort is different from what he was feeling last year. But at the same time, he understands there's a chance he could begin this season on the disabled list.
"I don't know that for sure," Smoltz said. "I'm not even going to play out the next 10 days. I'm just going to go day to day, and I'm not going to sweat it one bit. I know my body and I know how to handle it."
Smoltz plans to continue doing all of his normal exercises he performs between starts with the hope he'll be ready to make his final exhibition start next week.
When Smoltz arrived in camp this year, he said he wanted to pitch in a relaxed atmosphere. To facilitate this, he substituted his first three Grapefruit League starts with three simulated games.
Smoltz's only true game action came Saturday, when he allowed the Rays five runs -- three earned -- in 4 2/3 innings. After that game, he said he was pleased with his performance and provided no indication his shoulder was even a concern.
When he returned from the disabled list after last year's All-Star break, Smoltz didn't miss any starts. But he said he felt some minor shoulder discomfort throughout the rest of the season.
"Every time I've seen him throw, he's been as good as it gets," Cox said. "There's no reason to push this. He's throwing super."