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.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.