Smoltz will face Santana after all

Smoltz will face Santana after all

John Smoltz didn't think it would be wise to test his shoulder in Denver's cold climate. But the Braves veteran is confident that he's healthy enough to accept the challenge that awaits him at Turner Field on Sunday afternoon, when he opposes Johan Santana and the Mets.

When Friday night's series opener was postponed because of rain, it looked like Smoltz would make his season debut in Monday night's series opener against the Rockies at Coors Field. But after some discussion, the Braves decided to flip-flop Smoltz and Tom Glavine in their rotation.

Thus the Smoltz-Santana matchup that was envisioned earlier this week will once again serve as the highlight when these division rivals complete their first series against each other this year.

"I think it's going to be a great matchup," Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "That's when baseball is fun, when you see matchups like that. It's going to be a good game. I don't imagine there will be a whole lot of scoring going on all over the place."

This matchup brings back memories of April 10, 2005, when Smoltz matched a career high with 15 strikeouts and still lost an epic matchup against then-Mets ace Pedro Martinez.

Having had tightness in between his neck and shoulder as recently as two weeks ago, Smoltz isn't likely to provide that sort of masterpiece. But he says he's healthy and as he's shown throughout his career, his competitive spirit often allows him to rise to this sort of challenge.

When the Mets acquired Santana from the Twins, many of the Braves understood the significance. But at the same time, they said the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner's arrival only enhanced the challenge that the National League East race presents this season.

Santana was fortunate to get a no-decision when he made his only previous start against the Braves last year. His Twins trailed 2-0 entering the ninth inning. All-Star catcher Brian McCann took the accomplished southpaw deep with a fifth-inning solo homer.

"He's one of those guys you like getting pumped up to face," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "You've got to figure with the start of his career, he's headed toward Cooperstown if he has a healthy back half of his career. You want to measure yourself against the best.

"I faced him a few times. But never in a Met uniform. It will be interesting to see. We've got a pretty good guy going ourselves. It will be fun. We'll see who comes out on top."

Pitching matchup
ATL: RHP John Smoltz (14-8, 3.11 ERA in 2007)
Smoltz will be making his season debut with a right shoulder that he says has proven to be healthy over the past week. The tightness he'd had between his neck and right shoulder wasn't present when he completed five innings in a Minor League game on Sunday. The veteran hurler's only Spring Training start against a big league team occurred on March 15 against the Rays.

NYM: LHP Johan Santana (1-0, 2.57 ERA)
Santana was in control throughout his Mets debut against the Marlins on Monday. If not for a two-run home run by Josh Willingham, he would have escaped unscathed. As it was, he allowed three hits and two walks and struck out eight in seven innings. But the Marlins' batting order and that of the Braves bear little resemblance. Santana threw 100 pitches and fatigue didn't appear to be an issue.

Tidbits
Jones and Francoeur, who both went 3-for-5 in Saturday's series-opening win, are the only Braves to record a hit in every game this season. ... According to the Eilas Sports Bureau, Royce Ring was at the center of history during this week's Pirates series. He became the first pitcher ever to appear in three straight games against only the same hitter (Adam LaRoche) and strike him out each time. ... Braves left fielder Matt Diaz has five hits, including a homer, in nine career at-bats against Santana. Mark Teixeira has four hits, including a homer and a double, in 17 career at-bats against the southpaw.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• SPSO

On radio
• WGST 640, 94.9 FM, Viva 105.7 (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Braves (Tom Glavine, 0-0, 1.80) at Rockies (Aaron Cook, 0-1, 6.00), 8:35 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Braves (Jair Jurrjens, 1-0, 3.38) at Rockies (Ubaldo Jimenez, 0-1, 5.40), 8:35 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Braves (Chuck James, 11-10, 4.24 in 2007) at Rockies (Mark Redman, 0-1, 6.35), 8:35 p.m. ET

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