Originally created 05/30/97

Braves notes

ATLANTA - After being hit by a Joey Hamilton pitch in the fifth inning of Wednesday night's game in San Diego, shortstop Jeff Blauser missed Thursday night's game with a sore right forearm.

"There's so much blood in there my flexibility is very limited," he said. "Hopefully it will be well enough for tomorrow."

It was the seventh time Blauser has been hit this season, the league's fourth-highest total, and the 63rd time in his career. He spent Wednesday night icing his forearm and keeping it elevated, then received treatment Thursday.

"It's a bad spot anytime you get hit near the head or elbow," Blauser said. "But already it's feeling better than it did."

As a precaution, Blauser will undergo X-rays today to make sure no bone was chipped or broken.

Rafael Belliard made his second start of the season at shortstop Thursday.

"I know I've got to be ready every day," he said. "I come in thinking that I'm starting, just in case anything happens."

GOOD DEAL: Eighteen months after Kent Mercker was traded to the Orioles, Joe Borowski is making the deal look good. The right-hander has the staff's best earned run average (0.69), having allowed just one run in 10 appearances, and the league is hitting .229 against him.

"He's put in a lot of hard work and learned what he can do with his pitches," pitching coach Leo Mazzone said. "He'll start to get in more games."

Borowski, who was acquired with minor league pitcher Rachaad Stewart in December 1995 for Mercker, split last season between Class AAA Richmond (1-5, 3.71 ERA) and the Braves (2-4, 4.85 ERA). The biggest difference between his stuff now and then is a sinker he's developed, plus a sense of confidence partially inspired by a conversation he had with David Justice near the end of spring training.

"Justice said trust yourself," Borowski said. "He asked if I could live with failing and said there's only one way to find out if I'm good enough to pitch here and that's by going out and doing it."

So far, Borowski is proving he belongs, though it took a year and a half for Mazzone to convince him to trust his pitches. The reliever dropped a four-seam fastball and began throwing a two-seam that sinks, is working on a changeup and throws a slider. That's enough pitches to be a starter, which might happen if Terrell Wade continues to be ineffective.

For now, all Borowski wants is a chance to pitch and show the Braves he's not the automatic choice to be sent to the minors whenBryan Harvey or Pedro Borbon returns.

"I've shown them that I can pitch up here, but I don't know if it's enough," Borowski said. "I've been able to throw strikes and get ground balls. If I continue to do that, they have no choice but to have more confidence in me."

Wade threw in the bullpen Thursday and will start Sunday's series finale against the Giants. The decision to start Wade Sunday wasn't a surprise, although it means Greg Maddux will work with an extra day's rest.

"We'll try and get Wade going," manager Bobby Cox said. "Last year he was throwing a hard slider and hard fastball. But he's got to remember how to get people out, not just throw them."

Wade has made seven starts and struggled in most of them. He's allowed 48 hits in 33Š innings and the league is hitting .348 against him. In no way has the left-hander resembled the pitcher who was 3-0 with a 3.60 ERA as a starter last year.

"They know I'm capable of doing a whole lot better," Wade said. "I've just got to work through the bad times."

NO PAIN: Left-hander Denny Neagle threw for 10 minutes on the side Thursday in preparation for Saturday's start and was delighted to find no pain in his right shoulder. Ten days ago he was bothered by soreness, but it didn't hamper him in Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Dodgers and he's hopeful it doesn't return.

"If it continues, I'll have arthroscopic surgery after the season," Neagle said. "I'll do whatever I have to do."

MILESTONES: Fred McGriff played in his 1,500th game Thursday night. Other milestones approaching for the Braves: Belliard is eight hits away from 500, Blauser is 40 hits from 1,000 and manager Bobby Cox is nine wins away from 900 with the Braves.


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