Originally created 08/02/97

Braves notes

MIAMI - Paul Byrd did more than pitch six impressive innings Thursday night.

He impressed manager Bobby Cox and pitching coach Leo Mazzone so much they decided to keep him with the team, rather than return him to Class AAA Richmond (Va.).

Cox indicated Friday he had planned to bring up another pitcher as bullpen insurance and send Byrd back down following his start, but then reconsidered.

"I'd like to have had another pitcher today, but that wouldn't have been fair to Paul," Cox said. "You've got to have some loyalty. He really threw the ball good last night. We can get by for three days."

Byrd probably won't get another start unless Tom Glavine can't make Tuesday's start. He'll work out of the bullpen and indicated he would be available Sunday when rookie Kevin Millwood faces the Marlins.

"They needed to see me have confidence out there and throwing strikes," Byrd said.

The right-hander, who was 3-0 with a 4.88 ERA with the Braves before he was demoted to Richmond, didn't make any mechanical changes in his delivery while he was in the minors. Most of change was made in his mental approach.

"My fastball wasn't any faster last night," he said. "But instead of trying to pitch like Greg Maddux, where he starts the first pitch on the outside corner, I tried to keep the ball down and throw it over the plate. I'm not going to try and nip and pick and be perfect anymore. I'll be aggressive and throw the ball down the middle and keep it down."

Glavine, who missed Thursday's start because of a sore calf and sore Achilles tendon, jogged in the outfield Friday afternoon and indicated he's making progress.

"It's getting better every day," he said. "Trying to run on it will be a good test."

Kenny Lofton and Ryan Klesko returned to the lineup Friday night, though both players said they weren't 100 percent healthy. Lofton is suffering from a left hip flexor, while Klesko has a jammed right thumb.

"I could have played (Thursday), but it would have been a little sore, sorer than I wanted it to be," Lofton said. "My body hasn't been playing in awhile and it's normal. It's going from doing nothing to full contact basically. My body is starting to fire up again."

Klesko is protecting his thumb with a wad of tape on his bat handle which prevents his top hand from rolling over onto his thumb. He tested it Thursday, then took batting practice Friday and indicated his thumb still hurts.

"It hurts when I take a bad swing and it stays there for awhile," he said. "But I think I can play through it."

Klesko said he wouldn't lose any power by spreading his hands slightly apart on the bat. It might even improve his hitting.

"Maybe I'll hit .340 the rest of my career because I changed my grip, but I probably won't," he said.

Rookie relievers Mike Cather and Chad Fox have helped solidify the bullpen since their arrival two weeks ago. Cather has appeared in 10 games and has a 1.29 ERA, while Fox has made nine appearances and posted a 2.70 ERA. They have combined to work 24 innings and yielded five earned runs.


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