WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Damian Moss looks on this afternoon's start against Georgia Tech in the Braves' exhibition season opener as an opportunity to impress the right people.
The Australian left-hander will work the first two innings against Tech and be followed by John LeRoy, Kevin Millwood, Antone Brooks, Ray King and Carl Schutz.
"It should be an experience," Moss said. "Right now I just want to put on a good show for these guys."
Moss, 20, is regarded as one of the Braves' top prospects. He was 9-1 with a 2.25 ERA for Class A Durham last season, then was promoted to Class AA Greenville and struggled, going 2-5 with a 4.97 ERA.
A left-hander who reminds scouts of Tom Glavine, Moss has a 90-m.p.h. fastball, an excellent curve and a changeup.
"If people want to compare me to Tom Glavine, I don't mind," Moss said. "I'd like to pitch like him."
Moss will face an undefeated (8-0) Tech team that's ranked fourth in the nation by Baseball America. The Yellow Jackets, led by pitcher/outfielder Scott Prather, whose .545 average leads the ACC, and left fielder J.J. Thomas, who leads the ACC with six homers and 19 RBI, will send David Elder or L.J. Yankosky to the mound against the Braves.
"Georgia Tech looks like they've got a good year going," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
The Braves have been playing host to either Georgia Tech or Georgia for many years and have yet to lose a game. Cox plans to start many of his regulars, although he'll probably leave first baseman Fred McGriff out of the lineup. Most of the regulars will get two at-bats and then give way to the youngsters.
Georgia Tech, which played Jacksonville State in Atlanta Wednesday, was scheduled to arrive in West Palm Beach this morning. The team will return to Atlanta immediately after the game.
SIGNS: Infielder Ed Giovanola signed a split contract Wednesday, reducing the number of unsigned players to five. Giovanola will receive a salary of $157,500 if he makes the 25-man roster and $72,000 if he plays at Class AAA Richmond (Va.).
Giovanola figures he stands a good chance of making the club as a backup infielder because he's a left-hander hitter. The Braves don't have any other left-handed hitters as bench candidates, an area the club must strengthen before the season opens.
Assessing last year's bench, which went 0-for-22 in the postseason, Cox said, "The bench was fine, we just didn't get any hits. We'll look at it all spring. I don't even want to speculate who's going to make it."
EARLY: Twenty-nine of the organization's top prospects reported to the minor league complex for early spring training Tuesday and worked out for the first time Wednesday. Among the arrivals at the B.E.S.T. (Braves Early Spring Training) program were first baseman A.J. Zapp, the No. 1 pick last year, right-hander James Marquis, the sandwich pick between the the first and second round last year, left-hander Bruce Chen, a free agent from Panama signed in 1993, and shortstop James Brignac, the third-round selection last year.
The remaining minor leaguers will follow in two waves. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report March 7 and position players will arrive the next day.
OFFICERS: Wearing body armor, Ryan Klesko and coach Ned Yost joined the sheriff's department S.W.A.T team Tuesday night and watched as officers served four warrants on crack houses. Klesko said no shots were fired and he remained behind in the van until suspects were in custody.
"I'm just there to observe and let people know what they're all about," Klesko said.
General manager John Schuerholz said he'd prefer players not ride motorcycles, as Mike Bielecki, Jeff Blauser and Mark Wohlers do, and ride with S.W.A.T. teams, but understands the attraction.
"We're satisfied (Klesko) takes the necessary precautions," Schuerholz said. "He's motivated to take the necessary precautions because he doesn't have a guaranteed contract."