Originally created 04/28/97

Braves notebook: McGriff average down



ATLANTA - Fred McGriff was hitting .339 just nine days ago, but a 2-for-21 stretch has dragged his average down to .286.

But that's not as discouraging as his lack of power.

McGriff has just two homers, hasn't hit one since April 10 and has only 12 RBI. Last April, the first baseman hit .337 with six homers and drove in 28 runs.

"No excuses, I just haven't been hitting," McGriff said. "Sometimes I have good starts and sometimes bad starts. I just haven't got consistent yet."

The cold weather has affected McGriff, Chipper Jones and Ryan Klesko. Their bats usually heat up at about the same time the temperature starts rising and, so far, most games have been played in cool conditions.

So far, the trio have combined for six homers and 42 RBI in 22 games.

"Baseball is meant to be played in sunshine and nice summers," McGriff said.

FROM THE RIGHT SIDE: Jones, who described his right-handed swing in unflattering terms Saturday, was pleasantly surprised with his success against Padres left-hander Fernando Valenzuela on Sunday. A .250 career hitter against him, Jones had a two-run double and a single in three trips to the plate.

It was the first time since April 15 against Reds left-hander Kent Mercker that Jones had a pair of hits while batting right-handed. That was also the game he injured his groin and since then he'd had only one multi-hit game.

SHORT DAY: The last time the Braves played a 4 1/2-inning game, as they did Sunday, was May 9, 1990 at Chicago. Pete Smith was the losing pitcher that day, 4-0, to the Cubs.

KNOWS HIS ROLE: Manager Bobby Cox approached rookie second baseman Tony Graffanino in the clubhouse Saturday and told him to be patient, that he would receive some playing time.

Graffanino smiled and shrugged. He knows that with Mark Lemke ahead of him, his at-bats will be limited. He's started only two of the first 22 games and received only 12 at-bats.

"I understand that I'm not going to play a lot," he said. "I know my role on the team. I'm not getting down or upset about it."

Graffanino, who hit .283 at Class AAA Richmond last year, is hitting .167 in his limited role. But he's finding other ways to contribute. He entered Saturday's game as a pinch runner in the ninth inning and stole a base, his second steal this season.

Graffanino learned a valuable lesson in his last at-bat against the Giants. He was sent to the plate as a pinch hitter in last Tuesday and struck out swinging because he was too anxious.

"I learned that I need to calm myself down and concentrate on seeing the ball," he said. "You've got to be ready to hit, but not be anxious at the same time. It's kind of hard."

STREAKING: Kenny Lofton heads into tonight's game against the Dodgers with a nine-game hitting streak and has hit in 17 of the last 19 games at a .471 clip.

  • Bryan Harvey has worked 4Š innings in five appearances during his rehabilitation assignment with Class AA Greenville (S.C.) and has given up three hits and one earned run.
  • Harvey started the assignment April 12 and the Braves expect him to remain there for the 30 days that he's eligible.

    "He's still working on getting his arm back in shape and rebuilding his arm strength, which was the plan at the outset," general manager John Schuerholz said. "Like I told him when we signed him, this is not about a speedy process, it's about a thorough and complete process."

    GOOD START: Tom Glavine goes to the mound tonight against the Dodgers looking to improve his record to 4-0, his best start since winning his first seven decisions to open the 1993 season. The left-hander pitched well against Los Angeles last year, but had nothing to show for it. He made four starts and went 0-2 with a 3.12 ERA.