SAN DIEGO -- The Cardinals signed John Smoltz thinking he was a perfect fit for their needs. Smoltz feels the same way about his new team.
The likely future Hall of Famer joined the Redbirds on Thursday, speaking with reporters in the PETCO Park dugout before throwing a bullpen session in advance of his start Sunday against the Padres. And he explained that the opportunity afforded him with the Cards is exactly what he was hoping to find. Smoltz was released by the Red Sox after posting an 8.32 ERA in eight games in Boston.
"They always say things work out for a reason," Smoltz said. "As much as I wanted to finish it in Boston, they gave me every opportunity to pitch. I have nothing but respect for what they allowed me to do. The dynamics changed and decisions had to happen. Now I'm here, in a more familiar place, in the National League, but in the same spotlight that I always want to be in, a team that's got a chance to go to the playoffs."
More specifically, Smoltz welcomed the opportunity to get two starts in St. Louis.
"If I had to come to a team and be perfect the very first or second time, then it wasn't going to be a good fit," he said. "If the luxury was there to show some patience and get me some innings, I'm sure the benefits were going to pay, the upside was going to be worth it. If I went to a team right at the edge, having to win every single game, or pitch relief, then I'm sure I was going to be in a tough spot. Not that I couldn't handle it, but the team was going to be in a tough spot."
Smoltz acknowledged that he is not all the way recovered from shoulder surgery he underwent last year. He said he's still getting stronger, and that his desire to return from that operation may have led him to push a little too hard at times.
"Everyone that I've talked to has told me a year and a half at least," Smoltz said. "And even talking briefly with [Chris Carpenter] and his experience, he said the same thing that I was having a hard time and I couldn't say. I wasn't being able to work between starts. There were a lot of things that were a struggle that I really believed I could overcome, based on my four elbow surgeries. And it's not even close.
"I've been through some incredible differences and changes in my career that I've overcome and I'm proud of, but this by far was the most difficult. And I've learned great respect for those who came back from it."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.