Originally created 03/31/97

Newcomer Lofton hits 1st Turner Field homer



ATLANTA - Kenny Lofton is the classic lead-off man who can hit for average, steal bases and play stellar defense. But he has some power, too.

Lofton showed it to his new team Sunday, smacking a triple and the first home run in Turner Field history in a 5-3 Atlanta Braves exhibition loss to the New York Yankees.

"He hit 14 home runs last year (with Cleveland), and the ball seems to be jumping in this park," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It wouldn't surprise me if he hits 15 or 20 for us."

Lofton, who was acquired from the Indians in a blockbuster trade last week, has 39 home runs in five-plus major league seasons. In 1995, he tripled twice in three games and homered twice in another.

Marquis Grissom, whom Lofton replaces in center field, hit a career-high 23 homers last year.

"My numbers show I can hit a few home runs - not a whole lot, but I can hit a few," Lofton said. "I just got lucky today, I guess, I don't know.

Andruw Jones also hit a solo home run for Atlanta, a towering blast over the right-field wall off righthander Dave Pavlas. Chipper Jones had an RBI double against Mike Buddie, who also gave up both of Lofton's extra-base hits.

The Braves pitched well except for a rocky sixth inning by Terrell Wade, who was tagged for three runs (two earned). Starting pitcher Denny Neagle allowed just two runs in five innings and breezed through his first three innings.

Derek Jeter had a double, and Bernie Williams, Cecil Fielder, Mark Whiten drove in runs for the Yankees.

Atlanta completed its spring training schedule at 10-18, its worst mark since going 10-19 in 1992. The team will travel to Houston today in order to work out once on artificial turf before Tuesday night's season opener against the Astros.

Cox was unconcerned about the spring record, instead occupying himself with several roster moves the team made Sunday.

Pitcher Dean Hartgraves and infielder Ed Giovanola were optioned to Triple-A Richmond. Pitcher Scott Brow was outrighted to Richmond and has 72 hours to accept the assignment or declare himself a free agent. Pitchers Kevin Rogers and Brad Woodall and catcher Fausto Tejero were designated for return to the minor league camp.

Pitchers Bryan Harvey (strained muscle in his left side) and Pedro Borbon (elbow) and outfielder Danny Bautista (lacerated finger) were placed on the disabled list. Harvey and Bautista went on the 15-day list, retroactive to March 24 and 23, respectively. Borbon, who is still recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, will be on the 60-day list.

Shortstop Rafael Belliard made the roster despite not playing the last week because of a pulled calf muscle. Pitcher Joe Borowski made it too, despite a 6.75 earned-run average going into Sunday's game.

"He pitched better (than his numbers)," Cox said. "We didn't boot many balls this spring, and ad I recall it, all the ones we did boot were when he was pitching."

Infielder Tony Graffanino earned a spot with an impressive spring in which he batted .405 and drove in 10 runs with two home runs.

"He could be an outstanding major league player," Cox said of the 24-year-old Graffanino, who appeared in 22 games last year. "He's out of (minor league) options, and we just weren't going to put him out there for some club to claim him for a dollar. That would be crazy."

The Braves will send 1996 Cy Young Award winner John Smoltz (24-8) against Shane Reynolds (16-10) in Tuesday's 8 p.m. opener at the Astrodome. The team plays three games in Houston before returning for a six-game homestand against Chicago and Houston beginning Friday.