ATLANTA - Reclamation projects Bryan Harvey and Kevin Rogers will have to prove themselves in the minor leagues before getting a chance to pitch for the Atlanta Braves.
Harvey, who has appeared in only 13 games since recording 45 saves for Florida in 1993, will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list because of a pulled muscle in his left side. Rogers, who hasn't appeared in a major league regular-season game since 1994, will start out at Triple-A Richmond.
"Hopefully, within the next week to 10 days, I'm going to be rehabbing somewhere," Harvey said. "I was doing everything I could in spring training - pitching every other day - until I got hurt. I was happy with the way my arm was coming around, but not with everything that was going on. I wasn't pitching the way I'm capable of pitching."
Rogers was impressive early in spring training, but finished with two disappointing outings. Still, the decision to send him down was considered somewhat surprising.
"He struggled the last two times out, but he's getting close," manager Bobby Cox said. "He hasn't pitched since 1993 to speak of, and it's certainly not going to hurt him to go down to Triple-A and and get under real game situations."
Rogers said he remains optimistic, because the Braves will probably need lefthanded bullpen help once the schedule forces Terrell Wade into a regular role as a fifth starter.
"When I signed, I said, `Give me a minor league job somewhere, and let me get my career going again."' he said. "Give me the opportunity to pitch competitively.' That's what I'm getting. I may have gotten my hopes up too much during the spring (about making the roster). I faced some good hitters and got them out. I also faced some good hitters and didn't get them out at times."
The Braves' opening pitching staff of 11 men includes starters John Smoltz, Greg Maddox, Tom Glavine and Denny Neagle and relievers Wade, Mark Wohlers, Mike Bielecki, Brad Clontz, Alan Embree, Joe Borowski and Paul Byrd.
"If these guys do the job," said Harvey, "we're just going to have to wait until we get a chance. I hope these guys do the job. Obviously, everybody's here for one thing, and that's another banner that says `World Champions' on it."
Lopez update: Catcher Javy Lopez was given the day off Sunday after being hit by a pitch on his left wrist Saturday. He said he could have played.
"It feels fine," Lopez said. "I'll be OK."
Lopez finished the spring with a .255 batting average, seven RBIs and two home runs.
Manager's discretion: The right field platoon of Andruw Jones and newly acquired Michael Tucker will be flexible, Cox said.
Jones, a right-handed hitter, will usually start against left-handed pitchers, while the left-handed-hitting Tucker will generally start against righties.
"Basically, it's rigid, but if one's sitting too long, naturally I'm going to play him," Cox said.
Both Cox and general John Schuerholz say they aren't concerned that Jones, a prospective superstar who doesn't turn 20 until April 23, won't be playing every day.
"He'll learn a ton," Cox said. "He'll get plenty of at-bats, and by this time next year, he'll be 20 years old."
Said Schuerholz, "Andruw Jones will shine no matter (how he is used) just because his talent is so compelling. He'll get plenty of playing time with only four outfielders."
One for the pinky: The Braves unveiled their 1996 National League championship rings, which will be presented to the players in a ceremony before Friday night's home opener against the Chicago Cubs.
The crest features the Braves logo and four 10-point rubies, which symbolize the team's NL titles in 1991, '92 '95 and '96.
One side reads "1996," along with, "Five Straight Championship Series," "4 out of 5 World Series" and the World Series logo. The other side includes a reproduction of Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium with the inscription, "1966-1996."
All of the Braves' championship rings were crafted by Minneapolis-based Jostens.
"They've done another great job with this one, and it's one we'll all be proud to wear and look at," pitcher Tom Glavine said.
Team president Stan Kasten added, "Another year (of winning a pennant), and we may have to repeat the design."
Etc., etc.: The Braves are opening on the road at their own behest. Schuerholz said the team wanted a few days between this past weekend's exhibition games at new Turner Field and the home opener to correct any "small problems with logistics or whatever." ... Last week's two major trades might have occurred on the same day if not for an unexpected "glitch" that delayed the second deal. The first trade, in which Marquis Grissom and David Justice were sent to Cleveland for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree, was announced two days before the acquisition of Michael Tucker and Keith Lockhart from Kansas City for Jermaine Dye and a minor league pitcher. Schuerholz said he thought he had the second trade worked out when he pulled the trigger on the first, but was surprised to learn of a misunderstanding with Royals general manager Herk Robinson. "There was a glitch that took some time to work out," said Schuerholz, who declined to be more specific.
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