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Notes from rehab: Smoltz OK, Kuroda bad, Escobar lights-out

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Let's begin the day by discussing three semi-available pitchers who've made minor league rehab starts recently, and who are not Oliver Perez(notes).

Boston's John Smoltz(notes) (shoulder) was on a 65-pitch limit on Tuesday night, starting for the Double-A Portland Ham Fighters Sea Dogs. He went 3.1 innings, allowing three hits and one run. Smoltz didn't walk anyone, per his usual, and he finished with two Ks. After the game he declared, "My radar screen has 'Boston' on it."

Smoltz's velocity wasn't terrific, though. His fastball sat in the 89-91 range according to the Globe; in 2007 and 2008, Smoltz's average fastball was 92.5 mph. He'll need every last tick to succeed in the A.L. East. Smoltz will get a 75-pitch effort at Single-A Greenville on Sunday, then a pair of starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. If things go relatively well, he'll make his 2009 Major League debut either at Philadelphia during the June 12-14 series or against Florida on June 16. Red Sox pitchers have a terrific schedule from mid-June to mid-July (FLA, ATL, at WAS, at ATL, at BAL, SEA, OAK, KC), but things get much rougher after the All-Star break. Boston will see a steady diet of the American League's best lineups and toughest parks in August: at TB, at NYY, DET, at TEX, at TOR, NYY.

If you've stashed the 42-year-old Smoltz on your imaginary DL, wait for a wave of June propaganda, then shop the brand name. That's the official blog recommendation.

Hiroki Kuroda(notes) (oblique) was steamrolled by the Single-A Modesto Kidney Stones Nuts on Wednesday. He gave up nine hits and seven runs (five earned) in five innings, and he struck out two. The unearned runs scored on a Kuroda throwing error, so you can assign him at least partial credit. He was relieved by 20-year-old Chris Withrow, who proceeded to strike out 10 Nuts before taking a tough-luck loss.

Kuroda was much better in his previous Single-A start (3.2 IP, 1 H, 3 K), but the only encouraging thing to take away from Wednesday's effort is the fact that he made it through five frames. He'll need to take another turn somewhere in the minors. Still, you like the fact that Kuroda is an N.L. West starter who pitches for the right team. Remain patient if you've got a DL spot to burn.

Kelvim Escobar(notes) (shoulder) threw six shutout innings for the Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Fightin' Meat Loaves Quakes on Wednesday. This is the sort of line you hope to see when a veteran pitcher (who's DL-eligible and available in 46 percent of PLUS leagues) faces a lineup full of kids:

6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K

Escobar retired the final 12 children he faced, and he hit 95 mph on the in-stadium radar gun according to the Los Angeles Times. It sounds like he'll get a start for the Triple-A Salt Lake Fragrant Self-Tanners Bees, then join the Angels next week.


Photo via AP Images

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