Smoltz eager to find redemption

Smoltz eager to find redemption

SAN DIEGO -- The circumstances have already changed just in the two days since John Smoltz joined the Cardinals, but Smoltz's goal remains the same. He believes he's still an effective Major League pitcher, and he's eager to prove it.

"I still believe I've got the intensity and the experience to pitch in big games," Smoltz said. "That's what this team and this franchise have been about, and I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised, or I wouldn't be here today."

Released by the Red Sox after eight starts that yielded an ERA starting with an eight, Smoltz is back in the National League. He takes the mound for the Cardinals as the No. 4 starter in the wake of Kyle Lohse's left groin strain, and there's a little more on him than there was the day he signed.

It's fair to say that sits OK with Smoltz, though.

"A reasonable expectation is that I think you're going to get a nasty guy that's on the mound that has regained his nastiness," Smoltz said. "I think in whatever capacity, one hitter or 27 hitters, I still believe in everything that I'm doing to get myself prepared for that battle."

The Cardinals aren't entirely sure what they'll be getting, at least as far as results. On the mound, they know Smoltz represents one of the game's top professionals and competitors.

"A fair expectation is that he'll do the very best he can," said manager Tony La Russa. "That's the expectation. And there's no doubt in my mind that he's going to do that. You don't have to go any further than that. Just do the best you can."

Smoltz gets a friendly assignment to start out. He'll be pitching in one of the game's most hitter-friendly ballparks. And he'll be facing a team that, while not punchless, is not one of the NL's most potent either. His next start may bring more of the same, as it's expected to be a home game against the Nationals.

So things have been set up for Smoltz to succeed, at least at the beginning. He believes he will.

"I know a lot of people would not be embarking on double jeopardy," Smoltz said. "But at the same time, I'm not defined or consumed with a result that makes me who I am. Every athlete wants to be able to right the ship and finish out strong. If I didn't think I was close, and other people didn't say the same thing, this is not a feel-good story. ... But I still believe that there's enough left in the tank, not only now but in the future."

Pitching matchup
STL: RHP John Smoltz (2-5, 8.33 ERA)
It appears that the newest Redbird will take over for Mitchell Boggs. Smoltz had a tough go in the American League, but there were still some things to like. He tended to start strong before fading -- not all that surprising given that he's trying to come back from the right shoulder surgery he underwent last year. And the righty was very tough on right-handed hitters, so if he can find something in his arsenal to neutralize lefties, he could be just fine.

SD: RHP Cesar Carrillo (1-1, 11.88 ERA)
Carrillo improved dramatically in his second Major League start and earned his first career victory against the Cubs on Tuesday. After serving up three home runs and eight runs in his debut, the 2005 first-round Draft pick held the Cubs to three runs on seven hits over six innings and kept the Padres in the game, while Adrian Gonzalez put San Diego on top with his 33rd home run of the season.

Tidbits
David Eckstein is 5-for-13 (.385) lifetime against Smoltz. ... Brendan Ryan is 16-for-38 (.421) over his past 12 games. ... Mark DeRosa has gotten on base by hit or walk seven times in the first three games of the series. ... Albert Pujols has eight strikeouts in his past seven games. He had eight in the previous 23.

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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• KSDK 5

On radio
• KTRS 550

Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, 14-7, 2.61) vs. Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 12-7, 2.89), 7:15 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 12-9, 3.15) vs. Astros (Roy Oswalt, 7-4, 3.83), 7:15 p.m. CT

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