Notes: Smoltz OK to face Dice-K

Notes: Smoltz OK to face Dice-K

WASHINGTON -- Braves manager Bobby Cox didn't even wait in the dugout to hear how John Smoltz felt after throwing a side session at RFK Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. Just by the way Smoltz was walking, Cox could tell that his veteran hurler was going to be able to start Saturday's game at Fenway Park.

When Smoltz dislocated his right pinky finger during Monday night's game against the Nationals, there was immediate reason to believe he might miss significant time. But after completing Wednesday's side session in pain-free fashion, he confirmed that he won't even miss a single start.

"I don't want to call it anything other than very lucky," said Smoltz, who is scheduled to oppose Daisuke Matsuzaka in Saturday afternoon's game against the Red Sox.

During his side session, Smoltz threw each of his pitches and attempted to simulate his delivery at game speed. At the end of his throwing motion, he felt slight discomfort that he likened to somebody lightly flicking the end of somebody else's finger.

"I'm not going to throw again now until I pitch," Smoltz said. "I'm going to continue to ice it and try to continue to get the fluid and inflammation out."

Compared to Tuesday, there was slightly more swelling in Smoltz's finger. But over the past two days, he has regularly kept his finger dipped in a Gatorade cup filled with ice.

Before Wednesday's bullpen session, Smoltz's greatest concern was that he would have trouble using the wider grip required to throw his changeup. But that didn't prove to be a problem.

Smoltz, who turned 40 on Tuesday, is in his 20th Major League season. Yet it wasn't until Wednesday that he learned that his pinky and index fingers both make contact with the palm of his hands whenever he throws his slider.

"I turned to [Braves pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] and said, 'I didn't realize my last two fingers do that on the slider,'" Smoltz said. "There's no reason to think about it until you have an issue there."

When Smoltz suffered the dislocation while bumping into Austin Kearns' left elbow, he reacted in an exaggerated manner, throwing his glove to the ground in disgust. He says he wouldn't have done so had he known that he wouldn't even have to miss a start.

"Obviously, if I had to do it all over again, I would have never reacted the way that I did," Smoltz said. "This has turned out to be a lot less than what my mind could perceive. All I could see was, 'I'm out for a month.' I thought the worst."

Chipper returns: It was a good day all around for the Braves on the medical front. After taking early batting practice, Chipper Jones went to Cox and told him that he was ready to return to the lineup for the first time since Friday.

Jones missed four consecutive games while allowing his bruised right palm, which happened as a result of a collision with Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista, time to heal. With most of the swelling gone, he was able to take swings from the left side of the plate much easier than on Tuesday.

"I've got a lot more strength in my wrists and I'm able to use my hands more in my swing," Jones said. "It's just something that I wasn't able to do for the past couple of days."

With Jones back in the lineup, Edgar Renteria was able to return to the second spot in the lineup. Entering Wednesday, Renteria's All-Star credentials included a .327 batting average, six homers and 23 RBIs.

Renteria joins Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy as the only shortstops in the Majors who have hit at least .300 with six or more homers and at least 20 RBIs.

Long way to Ripken: Jeff Francoeur started his 204th consecutive game for the Braves on Wednesday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there are only three other Major Leaguers who have compiled longer streaks while staying with just one organization.

They are Baltimore's Miguel Tejada (526), Texas' Mark Teixeira (485) and Cleveland's Grady Sizemore (232).

Coming up: The Braves will conclude their four-game series against the Nationals on Thursday afternoon at 1:05 ET. They'll send Chuck James (4-3, 4.04) to the mound to face Matt Chico (2-4, 5.59).

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.