CINCINNATI -- Making a move to strengthen their bench, the Braves followed a blueprint they drew up last season by acquiring right-handed-hitting first baseman Greg Colbrunn from the Rockies following Thursday's game.
To get Colbrunn, hitting .311 with two homers and 13 RBI in 62 games, the Braves gave up a pair of minor league pitchers, Class AAA Richmond right-hander David Cortes and Class A Danville 97s left-hander Mike Porzio.
Colbrunn, who hit .278 with two homers and nine RBI in 28 games with the Braves last season after coming in an August trade with the Twins, signed a $600,000 minor league contract with the Rockies as a free agent last winter. He had hoped to get more playing time in Colorado, but with Todd Helton getting most of the starts, he found himself in the same backup role that he filled with the Braves.
"He's a tough out," manager Bobby Cox said. "He can give Cat (Andres Galarraga) a day off now and then and play a little first."
Cortes, who would have been recalled from Richmond earlier this season if not for a shoulder injury, was 3-3 with a 2.82 ERA in 29 games at Richmond. Porzio was 3-2 with a 2.51 ERA and 26 saves at Danville.
The Braves will decide today how to make room on their roster for Colbrunn. Cox indicated he plans to meet with general manager John Schuerholz and discuss the Mark Wohlers situation and then decide what roster move to make.
Wohlers and Cox met Thursday morning, but nothing was resolved. The club wants the reliever to return to Class AAA Richmond, but needs his permission to make the move. So far, Wohlers has refused.
"I'm staying here," he said. "Even if I strike out every batter I face, it's got to be at the big league level. I'm aware of the circumstances. I understand my playoff spot on the roster is in jeopardy, but if I go down there and pitch great and come back here and have two bad outings I'm in jeopardy anyway. Pitching in Triple-A is irrelevant. That's how I feel right now."
SMOLTZ STILL LIVID: Less than 24 hours after rookie umpire Hunter Wendelstedt stepped on John Smoltz's foot, then claimed the pitcher "bumped" him and ejected him, Smoltz was still livid.
Asked what his response would be if NL president Leonard Coleman attempts to fine or suspend him for the fourth-inning incident in Wednesday night's game, Smoltz replied, "No way. Right now my response would be no way. If they watch those tapes at all, if that's how they levy fines and judge suspensions, they'd better not hit me up with either one of them."
Replays clearly show Wendelstedt inadvertently stepped on Smoltz in making a call at third base. Then, he turned and accused Smoltz of bumping him and tossed him. Moments later, when manager Bobby Cox tried to separate the pair, Wendelstedt repeated his act, claiming Cox bumped him too and ejected him.
"I'm 150 percent certain I never touched him," Smoltz said. "He overreacted and made a huge mistake. I shouldn't have to pay for it in the aftermath with a fine or a suspension. I'll fight it to the absolute end."
MADDUX FACES MCGWIRE: Greg Maddux goes to the mound tonight in the opener of a three-game series against the Cardinals at Turner Field none too excited about facing the major league's home run leader, Mark McGwire.
"Why would you enjoy facing a guy who can hit the Coke bottle (on top of the left field stands)?" Maddux said. "I enjoy facing the singles hitters. One of your mistakes the fans catch (when McGwire hits it), as opposed to one of your outfielders catching it with a singles hitter."
Maddux will get a chance to enjoy McGwire Saturday and Sunday when Tom Glavine and Kevin Millwood are charged with getting him out.
"He's fun to watch hit," Maddux said. "He hits a ball, not just further than anyone, but way further. You just hope he doesn't hit one at you. It would be worse than getting hit by Nolan Ryan, if he hit you."
HERITAGE SALUTE: The Braves will celebrate their second annual "Heritage Salute" during the series against the Cardinals, highlighted by the two teams wearing replica Negro League uniforms during the final two games. The Braves will take the field Saturday afternoon in 1940 Atlanta Black Crackers uniforms, while the Cards will wear uniforms of the 1928 St. Louis Stars.
BIG JULY: True to form, Chipper Jones is having a big July, just as he has throughout his career. He's a career .314 hitter in July, his best average by month, though his best power and production have historically come in June.
With one game remaining this month, Jones is hitting .402 with eight homers and 19 RBI in 26 games.
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