TORONTO -- John Smoltz will pitch tonight's series finale against the Blue Jays, four days after making 125 pitches in a no-decision against the Orioles.
The right-hander favors the idea of pitching on short rest and would like to remain in a four-man rotation.
"I get into a much better routine," Smoltz said. "Every opportunity I get to pitch on three days rest I look forward to it. I'd love to know what I could do every fourth day."
Smoltz and the three other Braves starters will receive only an occasional chance to find out. While they support the idea of returning to a four-man rotation, a rotation all teams used until 20-25 years ago, manager Bobby Cox has no intention of making the change.
"The problem is, it used to be a 154-game schedule and then a World Series," Cox said. "Now it's 215-219 games, so we're building up a lot more innings on the pitchers."
Smoltz has found that when he works in a five-man rotation he is always ready to pitch the fourth day. He believes the reason he's always pitched so well in the postseason is because the Braves use a four-man rotation and he works with short rest.
"With the exception of doing it a bunch of times in a row, it shouldn't affect your stuff," Smoltz said.
Cox is not opposed to bringing back his starters occasionally on the fourth day, but until the postseason starts he'll continue in a five-man rotation.
"On our staff you could do it (use a four-man rotation) because they all prefer it," Cox said. "But the mindset over the last 20-25 years is pitching every fifth day."
KNEE INJURED: Cox planned to use Javy Lopez as the designated hitter Tuesday night, but the catcher bruised his left knee sliding in the fourth inning Monday and was unable to play.
"The (second base) area was like concrete," Lopez said. "This morning when I got up I couldn't walk."
Cox was kicking himself Tuesday for sending Lopez on a steal attempt. He forgot that Lopez had bruised his knee while trying to stretch a double into a triple in Denver and he realized he had made a mistake in running him.
"It was stupid on my part," Cox said. "If I had to do it over again I wouldn't have sent him. I hope he can play tomorrow."
COMING BACK? Otis Nixon will be a free agent after the season and he'd love to return to Atlanta. The Blue Jays' center fielder, who played with the Braves from 1991-93, wants to play for at least one more year in a warm weather city.
"We'll see," Nixon said. "The Braves have one of the best center fielders in the game now. But I would love to finish my career in Atlanta."
A couple of years ago the Braves approached Nixon about playing left field, but the talks didn't go very far. He eventually signed with the Blue Jays and he remains one of the game's best leadoff hitters at age 38. No player has stolen more bases this decade (384) than Nixon, he's fourth among active players with 526 career steals and he's only the 18th player since 1900 to reach 500 stolen bases.
If the Braves decide they can't afford to sign both Greg Maddux and Kenny Lofton, Nixon might be a player they pursue this winter.
BLANKS: Denny Neagle has two shutouts in his last three starts, which is a rather startling accomplishment when you realize he had one shutout in his first 116 major league starts.
The Braves' nine shutouts leads the majors.
FIVE MORE: The Braves have signed five more draft picks, bringing their total to 23. Shortstop Juan Velazquez, the third-round pick from Puerto Rico, third baseman Ryan Lehr from La Mesa, Calif., the eighth-round selection, and right-hander Timothy Lyons from the University of Kansas, the 36th pick, have reported to the Gulf Coast Rookie League Braves.
Left-hander Richard Thieme, the 17th-round pick from Georgia Tech, has reported to the Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League and right-hander Paul Shanklin, the 42nd round selection from West Virginia State has reported to the Danville Braves of the Appalachian League.
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