WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - When Bobby Cox posted his lineup Thursday morning he included most of his regulars, leaving only Fred McGriff and Marquis Grissom out of the spring's first exhibition game.
McGriff is expected to miss the first three or four games as he strengthens his left knee following surgery and Grissom missed the game to protect his tender right shoulder.
It's the same shoulder that caused Grissom problems last season and sitting out Thursday afternoon's game against Georgia Tech was a precautionary measure. Grissom has been working in the weight room to strengthen his shoulder and taking daily treatment from trainers to ease any discomfort.
"I overdo it with ice and heat and everything," he said. "I'm just trying to get it right so it doesn't get sore again."
Grissom played in pain last year, then played in Japan with the major league All-Stars following the season and felt the pain in his shoulder increase dramatically. He didn't do any throwing this winter and isn't going to rush it this spring.
"Coming back this year I wanted to take some time," Grissom said. "Taking a couple of days won't hurt."
Cox indicated Grissom would probably play in this afternoon's Grapefruit League opener against the Dodgers.
THOMAS STARS: The Braves won Thursday's game 3-0, but the game's most impressive hitter was Georgia Tech junior first baseman J.J. Thomas, who had a double and a pair of singles. After the game, Braves assistant trainer Jeff Porter approached Thomas and said, "You don't have to get on that plane if you don't want to."
Thomas, who leads the ACC in homers and RBI, described the game as one of his biggest thrills.
"A lot of people don't get the chance to play against David Justice and Andruw Jones," he said. "It was an honor to be on the field with them."
Using wooden bats, Tech managed only five hits against six Braves pitchers but didn't commit an error and was trailing only 1-0 in the seventh inning. Jeff Blauser gave the Braves an early lead with an RBI single in the second inning, Hensley Meulens drove in a run with a single in the seventh and Jermaine Dye sent the final run across the plate with a sacrifice fly the next inning.
"This was a great atmosphere," Tech coach Danny Hall said. "It gives my players a chance to compare themselves to great players they see on TV."
Twenty-year-old Australian left-hander Damian Moss impressed Cox with two strong innings, yielding one hit and striking out three, and picked up the win.
"All our young kids were really good," Cox said. "Moss is going to be a good one."
The game was played in a snappy one hour and 59 minutes. Blauser got his spring off to a fast start with a pair of singles, the only Brave with more than one hit.
"Pitchers are still ahead of hitters, but I took a lot of batting practice during the winter and maybe I'm swinging a little better right now," Blauser said.
CONTRACT TIME: Dye and right-hander Paul Byrd signed one-year contracts Thursday, leaving only pitchers Brad Clontz and Dean Hartgraves and outfielder Andruw Jones as the only unsigned players in camp.
Dye, who hit .281 with 12 homers after joining the Braves last May following David Justice's shoulder injury, signed a split contract. He will receive a raise from $109,000 to $175,000 if he makes the team. If he starts the season at Class AAA Richmond (Va.) he will be paid $81,000.
"I don't even worry about it," Dye said. "I've got to go out and play my game and let off the field stuff take care of itself."
The Braves have set a March 1 deadline to settle the remaining contracts. Any player who hasn't signed by then will have his contract renewed the morning of March 2, according to assistant general manager Dean Taylor.
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