Originally created 08/12/97

Braves notes



ATLANTA - Unable to play shorthanded any longer, the Braves placed backup infielder Keith Lockhart on the disabled list Monday retroactive to last Wednesday with a strained oblique muscle and called up infielder Ed Giovanola from Class AAA Richmond (Va.).

Following Monday night's 2-1 victory over the Marlins, the Braves also returned rookie right-hander Kevin Millwood to Richmond and recalled reliever Kerry Ligtenberg.

The decision on Millwood was made because the Braves don't need a fifth starter until Aug. 30. Ligtenberg, 0-3 with a 4.32 ERA at Richmond, was chosen ahead of Brad Clontz because pitching coach Bill Fischer recommended him.

"He's pitching lights out," general manager John Schuerholz said. "Bill Fischer says he's outstanding right now."

The decision to disable Lockhart, the club's best pinch hitter, weakens the bench. He's eligible to play again Aug. 22.

"We've been trying to dodge it, but we can't do it," manager Bobby Cox said. "We need an infielder up here. It didn't look like it was going to get better. We probably could have withstood it, but with (Jeff) Blauser being out a few days, it could be rough."

Giovanola was hitting .295 with two homers and 45 RBI in 104 games at Richmond. This is the third straight season he's shuttled between Richmond and Atlanta and in 56 games in the majors he's batted .208.

"You go into spring training wanting to make the team and when you don't you cherish every opportunity to get here," Giovanola said.

Lockhart is leading the club with 14 hits and 17 RBI as a pinch hitter. But he had been unable to swing since suffering the injury and though his side is improving, it will be several more days before he could attempt to hit.

"This is the best thing," Lockhart said. "But it's hard to sit on the bench and have someone up there pinch-hitting. I've got 10 days to treat it and hopefully get it ready."

Blauser missed his second straight start Monday with a sore left big toe and hopes to return today. He suffered the injury in Saturday's game when he was spiked by Craig Counsell and has drained blood from beneath the nail twice.

"You're basically playing with one foot and what can you do?" Blauser said. "This whole ordeal has made me ask a question that no one has been able to answer. What are toe nails for? Shouldn't toes just be toes?"

Club orthopedist Dr. Joe Chandler is going to be a busy man this winter. He will perform surgery on catcher Javy Lopez and pitcher John Smoltz and may operate on first baseman Fred McGriff and pitcher Denny Neagle. Cox may also have surgery to repair two bulging discs in his back.

Lopez and Smoltz will have similar surgeries to repair cartilage tears in their left knees. Neagle and McGriff are considering surgery to tighten up loose shoulders, Neagle's right and McGriff's left.

"If it feels the rest of the season like it has the last month or so, I'm not going to worry about it," Neagle said. "If it acts up again, then I'll go ahead and do it."

Before Greg Maddux's $57.5 million contract was approved by the Braves, the right-hander had to undergo a physical so the club could take out an insurance policy on him.

Schuerholz indicated Monday that it was standard procedure for the Braves to insure all large contracts, including the ones signed recently by John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Denny Neagle.

The policy pays the Braves if a player suffers a career-ending injury, as well as any other injury.

The two sides settled the contract before Maddux's start against the Marlins in Miami Aug. 1, but the physical and insurance prevented the annoucement until Sunday.

"The first time out in Florida it was hard, mentally hard," Maddux admitted.

After watching Mike Bielecki pitch poorly in the Marlins series, Schuerholz indicated he wouldn't use the veteran reliever's last two outings to make a change in the bullpen.

"I don't think Bielecki is going to continue to pitch like this," he said. "I don't think it's terminal. I still have confidence in Mike. But we'll continue to look around and if we feel we can improve our club we will."

The Braves will participate in their second throwback game this season when they don 1911 Boston Braves uniforms to play the Red Sox at Fenway Park later this month. The Braves will wear old-style collared uniforms, while the Red Sox will wear 1908 pullover uniforms.