John Smoltz: NL East Is Going to Be a Battle All the Way to the End

Benjamin J. BlockCorrespondent IIApril 11, 2013

When a future Hall of Famer speaks, you listen.

In anticipation of calling his first MLB Network Showcase game of the season this Friday between the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals at 7 p.m. E.T. with Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz touched on both clubs and the crowded NL East in 2013.

"It's two elite teams, so you have a situation where I think each team is going to battle all year, and Friday is just an opening day of it where it just starts off the battle."


Benjamin J. Block: With Braves' top pitching prospect Julio Teheran getting his second start of 2013 on Friday, what are your overall thoughts on him?

John Smoltz: "The whole thing about these young kids having to come up in the shadows of [Tom] Glavine, [Greg] Maddux and myself is not an enviable position to be in. I feel bad for him in that regard.

"I just think that they have to have their own time frame to work things out. If he [Teheran] can do that, then I think sky is the limit for him."


BJB: Have you spoken to Teheran before? Any advice?

JS: "No, I haven't, I haven't spoken to him. The only advice would be, you gotta be able to go at your own rate. I think that the biggest thing that these kids aren't given are the same time frame that we were given when we were coming up.

"It's one of those things where I think that they should be able to do the things they need to do on their own time frame, and that's just very difficult today."


BJB: What's your take on the Nationals?

JS: "I just think that they have a slight edge over most of the teams in the National League because they are the most balanced. I know that their bullpen has been a little shaky early, but I don't see that continuing. Offense and starting pitching—they have the best two in the NL."


BJB: How does Atlanta measure up with Washington?

JS: "I think the Braves are close, they have a pretty decent offense and a decent starting staff, but where the Braves make it up is with a really solid bullpen."


BJB: There have also been a number of other interesting storylines early on in the season; what are your thoughts on the struggling Roy Halladay?

JS: "Roy is going through a phase, and everyone is going to speculate—Is he hurt? Is he healed? Is he this, that? He's a great pitcher and I think he's going to find a way, that's just my mind and my belief.

"Whether or not he gets his fastball back that everybody's looking for, I think finish on a pitch is the most important thing. When he starts finishing those pitches and getting that extra life on them whether it's a curveball slider or you name it, that's what's going to make the difference.

"I'm a big Doc Halladay fan and I think he'll be able to figure it out if he's healthy. Having gone through this myself over time, I can only tell you that it takes time, and if afforded the position to figure it out, I'm confident that he will."


BJB: They were a big rival of the Braves in the 1990s, what's your feeling about the Yankees and their current state?

JS: "I just laugh at the way people get carried away in the beginning of the season at a hot start or a slow start, they jump off the wagon, they jump back on the wagon—the Yankees are going to be fine.

"If they get the starting pitching that everyone thinks they are going to get, they've got a great end of their bullpen.

"You have to give a team 30 days, you really do."


BJB: What do you think 2013 will be like for Mariano Rivera since he's already announced that it will be his last?

JS: "For Mariano, I just can't imagine what a magical career he's had, and to get the choice to go out on his own terms, that's got to be rewarding."


BJB: Who do you have winning The Masters?

JS: I think it'll come down to the three big boys—Tiger [Woods], Rory [McIlroy] and Phil [Mickelson].


Smoltz's recap on the storylines of the first couple weeks of the season is refreshing to hear. He is on his way to becoming one of the game's best premier color commentators thanks to his unapologetic take on players and issues. 


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.