ATLANTA (AP) -- Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz is opting to undergo season-ending surgery on his ailing shoulder.
The decision raises serious questions about the 41-year-old right-hander's future. It would be highly improbable for a pitcher to come back from a major operation at his age. Nevertheless, Smoltz says he's eyeing a return to action in 2009.
Smoltz was taken off the disabled list on Monday and was hoping to make it through the rest of the season as a closer after starting five games this year. He came on in the ninth inning of that night's game against Florida with a 4-3 lead but gave up three hits and two runs, blowing his first save chance since 2004.
Smoltz is the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves, and he reached another milestone this season with his 3,000th strikeout.
His loss is a huge blow to an Atlanta team already dealing with a rash of injuries to its pitching staff. The Braves entered today's game against the visiting Marlins three and a-half games behind first-place Philadelphia in the National League East.