Originally created 04/12/98

Jackets set for Smoltz



MACON, Ga. -- You could see the excitement in Kory Dehaan's face. All somebody had to do was mention John Smoltz's name to the Augusta GreenJackets centerfielder and he grinned from ear to ear.

The GreenJackets will face Smoltz today in the rubber game of their series with the Macon Braves. It also will be Smoltz's final game in his rehabilitation stint.

But more importantly, Dehaan and the rest of the GreenJackets are jumping at the opportunity to face the 1996 National League Cy Young Award winner.

"I tell you, I'm very excited," Dehaan said. "I don't know what to expect. You want to try and do the best you can against him (Smoltz). You're not supposed to do good against people like that, but if you get a hit off him, that's more power to you."

Augusta had lost its past two games before Saturday night's contest with Macon, and the GreenJackets would like nothing better than to end their mini- slump and break out against Smoltz today.

"I wouldn't call us in a slump," said Derrick Lankford, GreenJacket first-baseman and designated hitter. "We've lost some pretty close games lately. I mean we've been getting beat by one or two runs. But I think it'll be a pretty good game."

But just like Dehaan, Lankford is excited about an opportunity to step into the batter's box and face the two-time all-star.

"You better believe it (excited about opportunity)," he said. "Anytime you have an opportunity to face a guy like that, it's definitely something to get up for. I'm not saying we don't get up for all of our games, but for some of us, this may be the only time we get to face a guy in the big leagues. It's something we can tell our grandkids about."

Smoltz had rotator cuff surgery during the off-season and pitched with the Braves during spring training. He pitched with Greenville last week and will make his final start today before joining the Braves later this week.

"This is his last rehab assignment," Lankford said. "We know he's going to work on a lot of his pitches and he's going to be trying to get ready for Atlanta or at least have that kind of mindset.

"I don't think he's going to come out here and think to himself, `These are a bunch of Class A ball players and they can't hit, so I'm going to throw them all fastballs."'

Dehaan said he thinks facing Smoltz will be a good measurement for himself as well as the rest of the GreenJackets.

"It would be great if we could score a half-dozen runs off him," he said. "But being the Cy Young pitcher, he's probably going to have a little fun with us."

The first pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. at Luther Williams Field in Macon.