AUGUSTA, Ga. – John Smoltz took a big step in his return form shoulder surgery, throwing three scoreless innings in his first rehabilitation outing.

Pitching for the Boston Red Sox’s Class A affiliate in Greenville, Smoltz struck out two with no walks and threw 29 pitches in his first game action in almost a year.

“I accomplished everything I really wanted to accomplish,” Smoltz said. “For me that’s a tough task because when I know I’ve only got three innings I want to do too much and I didn’t tonight. I really stayed patient with the same philosophy I’ve had the last three weeks.”

He said he was throwing at about 85 percent. His fastball was timed at 92 miles per hour.

The 42-year-old Smoltz opened the season on the disabled list following surgery last June to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

Smoltz, who has 210 career victories, agreed to a $5.5 million, one-year deal with the Red Sox in January after 20 seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

He made his first rehab appearance about 21/2 hours from Atlanta and hopes to be ready for his return to the major leagues next month.

Augusta center fielder Juan Perez led off the second inning with the team’s only hit off Smoltz, a single to left. Perez stole second and advanced to third on Smoltz’s only wild pitch of the game. Smoltz struck out the next two batters before ending the inning with a popup.

He walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the Augusta GreenJackets-record crowd of 5,828, including many wearing Smoltz’s Braves jerseys.

“It was mixed emotions for me,” Smoltz said. “I was really honored by the crowd. I know the process I’m about to go through is only going to get more hectic.”

Smoltz said he expects to next make at least one start for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs. He said his next start is tentatively set for Tuesday.

“I’ll just keep trying to check off each stop and work a little bit harder to regain what I really honestly thought I could regain,” he said.

AP-ES-05-21-09 2223EDT

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