Originally created 04/23/98

Wohlers appears to have solved flaw in delivery



ATLANTA -- The puzzle for Mark Wohlers isn't so much why his control has deserted him, but why it happens every April.

It's become a spring certainty that he'll endure a stretch in which he walks more hitters than Greg Maddux does in a dozen starts. Sure enough, that's his current dilemma, five walks issued to the last 11 men he's faced, seven walks in six innings overall.

"I don't know how to change it," he said. "I don't know if I should continue to pitch all year round or ask to start a spring training game so I can get more than nine or 10 innings in. I don't know what it is, but it seems like for the first month the last three or four years I've always been on shaky ground. It's frustrating."

Wohlers, tied for fourth in the league with five saves, said his problem is as much mental as it is mechanical. He threw on the side Wednesday afternoon and said he may have solved the flaw in his delivery. But until he steps on a mound again in another ninth inning, he won't know for certain that he's mentally prepared.

"It's not going to be (fixed) overnight," he said. "I'm going to work hard and get through it. But certainly every other year before now it hasn't happened in a day."

PAYING ATTENTION:

Tom Glavine paid close attention to John Smoltz's performance against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night. He watched the game on television in the clubhouse and charted his pitches, looking for anything that will help him in his start tonight.

"It's different facing a team for the first time," Glavine said. "How much different, I don't know. But I'm happy to be in the position I am because I get to watch them for a night. A couple of things will probably be reinforced, as far as pitching a hitter a certain way, or something will be revealed."

MORE MOVES:

With Dennis Martinez ready to pitch again in the bullpen, the Braves are expected to return reliever Paul Byrd to Class AAA Richmond today and call up a hitter, probably outfielder Damon Hollins.

The move will reduce the staff to its usual 11 pitchers and add a hitter to the bench to replace injured outfielder Danny Bautista. The right-handed-hitting Hollins is batting .261 with one homer and four RBI at Richmond. The other candidate is third baseman Wes Helms, who's hitting .308 with one home run and six RBI.

BAUTISTA BACK MAY 2?

Bautista had magnetic resonance imaging on his left shoulder Tuesday and, as expected, it revealed a partial tear of his labrum. Trainers have advised him not to swing a bat for six days and continue therapy to strengthen the area. They are hopeful Bautista will be able to play when he's eligible to come off the disabled list May 2.

"I've got to think I'll be ready," he said.

CLOSING IN:

Chipper Jones' 25 RBI in April are four short of the franchise record set by Dale Murphy in 1985. The major-league record for April is 32, set by Barry Bonds in 1996. Florida's Moises Alou had 30 last April and Andres Galarraga drove in 30 for the Rockies in April 1994.

Jones' nine April homers in 19 games are one shy of the franchise record set by Ryan Klesko in 1996. He didn't hit his ninth home run last year until his 66th game and No. 10 didn't arrive until his 71st game.

GETTING OUT ALIVE:

Braves pitchers are delighted their only visit to Coors Field has ended. The starters had an 1.85 ERA in their first 15 games and had allowed only one earned run over their last 37 innings heading into Denver, then were torched for 18 earned runs in 25 2/3 innings (6.31 ERA) at Coors.

BELLIARD THROWING:

Shortstop Rafael Belliard, on the 60-day disabled list after suffering a torn left quadriceps two weeks ago, has resumed throwing and hitting off a tee.

"I've got plenty of time," he said. "(Trainers) don't want me to do too much. They want me to take my time."

Belliard is expected to be out two or three months.