WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - It had been almost seven months since Pedro Borbon stepped on a mound and it looked like he'd never been away.
The left-hander, who underwent elbow surgery last Aug. 30, threw in the bullpen Friday morning and emerged with a smile of satisfaction.
"I think I'm going to be fine," he said. "The ball was coming out pretty good with hardly any effort. The main thing is I didn't feel any pain or discomfort."
Under the watchful eye of pitching coach Leo Mazzone, Borbon threw at about 60 percent velocity and showed good command. He has made a rapid recovery from `Tommy John' surgery in which doctors transplanted a tendon from his wrist into his elbow and told him he'd be back in a year. He began throwing lightly in January and hopes to return by the All-Star break.
"He was nice and loose and there was absolutely no sign of favoritism in any part of his mechanics," Mazzone said. "Everything you wanted to see good was good. I'm sure he was having some fun without his elbow hurting."
Borbon threw for about five minutes and hopes to begin a program of throwing every other day.
"Day by day I'll add a little more and a little more until I get to 100 percent," he said. "It's the first day and I've still got three months to go."
The Braves will be delighted when Borbon is ready to return. Last season he led the major leagues by allowing only one of 20 inherited runners to score, a .952 success ratio.
PLANS SPOILED:The Braves' pitching plans were somewhat scrambled when Friday's game was called by rain without Tom Glavine having thrown a pitch. He was on the mound with Orioles' leadoff hitter Brady Anderson approaching the plate in the top of the first when a light rain turned into a downpour and umpires waved the Braves off the field.
Glavine retreated to the indoor center to work four simulated innings, leaving the other scheduled pitchers - Yorkis Perez and Scott Brow- to be shoehorned into today's game.
"Tommy will get a good workout, though it's not the same as pitching," manager Bobby Cox said. "But we want to get good looks at Perez and Brow and it kind of screws up them."
Glavine had worked five innings in two previous starts without allowing a hit or run. He made 60 pitches in the Tommy Aaron Center against Ed Giovanola, Tony Graffanino, Andruw Jones and others and said estimated he gave up two hits, a walk, one run and struck out two.
"It beats not throwing at all," Glavine said. "I get the work in that I needed to get in and keep everybody else on schedule. The downside is, it's really hard to tell what would have happened or how sharp you are. It's hard to really tell what you're doing when you have that screen in front of you."
By working out Glavine, the Braves keep their rotation on schedule with Denny Neagle making his fourth start this afternoon against the Expos.
NOT SURE:Starting his 13th season, Rafael Belliard isn't certain he'll make the club this year. With four other players fighting for bench spots, the veteran shortstop/second baseman is in a precarious position, uncertain if Cox will keep him for his defensive work.
"I know I can still play," Belliard said. "I think I can still help the team. Every year I have to fight. There's nothing easy."
Since 1989, Belliard has played on a championship team every season, starting with the Pirates in the National League Championship Series in 1990.
The question Cox has to answer is, at age 35, has Belliard lost some range and defensive skill? He committed five errors last season, two more than he was charged with in the previous three seasons combined.
BRIEFING:Players union chief Don Fehr held his annual spring meeting with the Braves Friday morning, briefing them in the Basic Agreement that the union and owners signed later in the day.
"It was a very low-key and very upbeat meeting," Glavine said. "I told (Fehr) to make sure he signed the agreement with a smile."
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