Originally created 07/11/97

Braves notes



ATLANTA - Sandwiches and barbecue are in.

Canned drinks and alcoholic beverages are still out.

That's what the Braves told their fans Thursday, reversing a no-food policy for a more tolerant approach to food and snacks. The club will now allow fans to bring food into Turner Field, as long as the container fits underneath their seats.

"The easiest thing to do was go back and change the policy," team president Stan Kasten said. "We will continue to review all our policies until we get it right."

All those fans who had their food confiscated during the first half are probably wondering why it took the Braves so long to ditch a policy that only alienated their customers.

There's two reasons. First, revenues from Turner Field have exceeded expectations and Kasten said fans bringing in food won't impact business. Also, the club received an enormous amount of bad publicity, as well as complaints from fans, many of whom said they would never return. While not apologizing for a misguided policy, Kasten indicated the team was concerned about unhappy customers.

"It's obvious we didn't have to do it," he said. "I still don't think it's an enormous problem. But you hate to have bad publicity of any kind."

BAD NEWS: The news from the trainers room was all bad Thursday. Kenny Lofton returned to the disabled list, retroactive to last Sunday, forcing the club to recall outfielder Danny Bautista from Class AAA Richmond again. In addition, catcher Javy Lopez was diagnosed with a fractured left thumb, an injury he suffered in the All-Star game.

Lofton's strained left groin muscle has not gotten any better and it could be two weeks before he's ready to play. He underwent another MRI Monday, which showed only the aggravated groin and no other damage. He has begun a treatment program that will strengthen the muscle without irritating it.

"I was never a guy who liked to sit," Lofton said. "Now I've got to take days off. I'm not going to put any time on it. When it's ready, that's when I'll go. It could be a week, it could be two weeks."

Lofton admitted it was probably a mistake to try to come back last Saturday, when he reaggravated the injury.

"Any sign of me feeling better, I want to be out there," he said. "Maybe that was the wrong thing to do."

Said Chipper Jones, "I told Kenny we can win right now without him, but we need him to go all the way and win a World Series. I don't care how long it takes him to get ready, just as long as he's ready for October."

Lopez suffered a fracture in the joint line of his thumb when a foul tip off Ken Griffey Jr.'s bat in the sixth inning Tuesday bent his thumb back. He continued playing and homered in the seventh inning but then asked manager Bobby Cox to replace him.

"I've been a catcher for I don't know how many years and it's the first time it's ever happened," Lopez said. "It may take three weeks to heal, but that doesn't mean I'm going to wait three weeks to play."

Doctors have told Lopez he can play when the swelling goes down and he can stand the pain. That could be this weekend or early next week. Trainers have fashioned a plastic sheath for his thumb, but when he tested it by playing catch Thursday he experienced a lot of pain.

"I can't hold (a bat) good right now because it's swollen," he said. "I have problems holding it tight. It will take a day or two for the swelling to go down."

The chances are slim that another foul tip would land on the same spot, but the injury could worsen if it did.

"It's going to bother him for a long time if he gets a direct hit on it," head trainer Dave Pursley said.

HARVEY RELEASED: Bryan Harvey's comeback with the Braves has ended. The veteran reliever, signed to a $500,000 contract last winter, refused a minor league assignment Thursday and was released.

"Bryan was of the opinion that he was ready to pitch in the major leagues," general manager John Schuerholz said. "Our opinion was different from that. To Bryan's credit, he was very strong in his opinion that there was nothing more he could do in the minor leagues. But there wasn't one person whose judgment I rely on that agreed with that."

Harvey was 1-1 with a 5.18 ERA in a rehabilitation assignment with Class AA Greenville, but never recaptured the velocity or the split-finger fastball that once made him one of the most dominant closers in the game. When his extended rehab assignment ended, the Braves needed his permission to assign him to a minor league team and when he refused, he was released.