Smoltz nervous but ready for his first start

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John Smoltz returns tonight, and he’s a bit nervous about it:

“Hopefully I learn from some of those past experiences of what I call
two of the most anxious moments: first game as a closer and then my
first game back as a starter after five years, neither of which did I
do very well — and both of those years turned out to be great years,”
Smoltz said. “So I’m not going to get too caught up in whether or not
tomorrow is a success or a failure based on one start.”

I’m not exactly sure what Smotlz is referring to when he says he
didn’t do well in his first game as a closer. He went to the pen in
July of 2001, and in his first game back
he gave up no runs, no hits, no walks and struck out a guy against the
Expos. If he’s referring to the beginning of his first full season as
The Closer for the Braves — 2002 — he’s wrong too. In his first appearance that season he struck out two of the three men he faced and again didn’t allow a runner. It wasn’t until his second appearance — against the Mets — where he got shelled.

He was right, though, about his first game back as a starter. He was destroyed on Opening Day 2005 against the Marlins: 1.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R.

Braves ink Blaine Boyer to a minor league deal

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 2:  Relief pitcher Blaine Boyer #48 of the Milwaukee Brewers delivers to home plate during the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 2, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.

Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.

Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.