Originally created 04/11/98

Braves notes: Holbert excited about opportunity



PHILADELPHIA -- A week before spring training ended, shortstop Ray Holbert visited with manager Bobby Cox and asked about his future with the Braves.

Cox was honest with him, telling him he was leaning toward keeping Rafael Belliard as the backup shortstop. But he also assured Holbert that if a situation arose that gave him a chance to play, he'd be comfortable with him at shortstop.

"I had to take Bobby at his word," Holbert said Friday, "and I'm extremely glad I did."

After striking out and walking twice in Class AAA Richmond's season-opener against Charlotte on Thursday night, Holbert caught a flight Friday morning and was in the lineup against the Phillies. With Walt Weiss still bothered by a strained hamstring, Holbert probably will make another start or two in this series.

"I was pumped when they called me this morning," he said. "You're in the big leagues again and with the Braves. I don't know if there's a better scenario."

Holbert was recalled when Belliard was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a torn left quadriceps. Belliard was examined by doctors in Atlanta on Friday and found to have a complete tear of the upper quadriceps. The career-threatening injury is more severe than trainers initially thought, and Belliard will be out two or three months.

Holbert, 27, has some experience, having spent parts of the 1994 and 1995 seasons with the Padres, though he only hit .179. He hit .242 with the Tigers' Class AAA Toledo affiliate last season and was a free agent this winter. He decided to sign with the Braves after rejecting offers from the Brewers and Angels.

"The goal is to win, and when Atlanta expressed interest in me, it was pretty much cut and dried," Holbert said.

Cox made out two lineups Friday, one with Weiss at shortstop, the other with Holbert. He didn't decide to go with Holbert until after watching Weiss move around during batting practice.

"If (Weiss) is not feeling real good, I don't want to gamble on it," Cox said.

Weiss said before the game that his hamstring still is sore, especially after being forced to play the final four innings of Thursday's game.

"If I go out there tonight, I'd have to be careful," he said. "It's a little more sore today that it was yesterday, just because of the one play I had to make. (Artificial turf) may be a factor. There isn't much give, it just grabs so much."

SPOT ON LINE FOR MARTINEZ: Dennis Martinez is making sounds like he wants to remain in the rotation when John Smoltz returns next week, though Cox is planning on Kevin Millwood remaining a starter and Martinez going to the bullpen.

Martinez will make his first start tonight against the Phillies, and he hopes an impressive performance will convince Cox to keep him in the rotation.

"After (today) we'll see where I stand," Martinez said. "We never talked about anything about being in the bullpen. I have to show them still, I guess, not only them but some other teams maybe, that I can be a fifth starter or not."

Martinez, who is within one win of tying Juan Marichal as the winningest Latin American pitcher in major-league history, has not been effective in the early going. He's appeared in three games and has allowed 10 hits and four earned runs in five innings. Opponents are hitting .417 against him.

"I still believe I can help this team as a starter," Martinez said. "It's up to them to tell me what they have in mind."