ATLANTA - David Justice is making a speedy recovery from shoulder surgery, but not quickly enough to return this season.
Though he has made remarkable progress, doctors shot down the idea of him coming back next month when he brought it up.
"They said no," Justice said. "They aren't going to let me. I've accepted the fact that I've got to wait. I'll just work to be in the best shape of my career next March."
Justice has been working diligently to strengthen his right shoulder and said Tuesday he's well ahead of schedule. Doctors figured he could start swinging a bat three months after surgery and start swinging hard three months later.
It's been three months since his surgery and Justice is swinging hard already. He began hitting off a tee Tuesday, though he no longer takes his bat in a one-handed sweep over his head, choosing instead to keep two hands on the bat.
"Just the fact that I can get out and swing makes me feel good, even if it's off a tee," Justice said.
Justice acknowledged hearing rumors that he'll be traded to make room for youngsters Jermaine Dye and Andruw Jones in right field and shrugged away the stories.
"I'm not expecting it, but I understand it," Justice said. "I've thought about it. One day I might get traded. But I don't think I'll be traded to a National League team."
INVITED: Although outfielder Danny Bautista is on the 60-day disabled list and out for the season, the Braves have invited him to stay with the team through the postseason.
Bautista, who suffered a fractured orbital rim of his left eye when he was hit by a pitch June 27, will be in uniform every day and take batting practice with the team.
SWINGING: Jeff Blauser took 50-60 swings off a batting tee Tuesday afternoon, the first time he's swung a bat since suffering a broken bone in his left hand July 15.
"I was kind of expecting the worst, but it wasn't too bad," he said. "It was bearable. I was happy with it."
Blauser will continue hitting off a tee during the next few days, then graduate to soft toss and finally to live pitching. It will probably be early September before he is ready to play again.
"It surprised me how fast you lose the strength," he said. "It feels weak. I haven't done anything with it for five weeks except brush my teeth."
NO. 3 CATCHER: General manager John Schuerholz acknowledged he is shopping for a third-string catcher for the postseason. He apparently is not satisfied with Class AAA Richmond (Va.) catcher Joe Ayrault, who has no major league experience.
"I want to find the best one," Schuerholz said. "I know what's inside (the organization) and now I'm looking outside and seeing what's best."
ON THE MOUND: Steve Avery will continue playing catch in the outfield while he waits for his left oblique muscle to heal. The Braves are hoping he can return to the mound by mid-September and make three or four starts before the playoffs start.
"If he can get four starts, hopefully he'll be ready," manager Bobby Cox said.
While Avery slowly recovers, Jason Schmidt is pitching at Richmond and getting ready for a Aug. 31 start in Chicago. That's when Cox projects there's a spot open in the rotation, the day after a doubleheader at Wrigley Field.
Mark Wohlers was a tired but happy father Tuesday. He spent Monday at the hospital with his wife, Nancy, who gave birth to their first child, a six-pound, 14-ounce girl they named Nancy Austyn.
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