ST. LOUIS -- Ryan Klesko was in Friday night's lineup, making a rare start against a left-hander.
Bobby Cox's explanation was short and simple.
"I want to get him some at-bats," he said. "He's trying some different things, and I want him out there."
Left unspoken was the obvious. Klesko hasn't produced the power or production expected of him when he signed a four-year, $20.5 million contract last January and this is a last effort to get him going before the postseason. Klesko has 16 homers -- three since the All-Star break and none since Aug. 5 -- and only 60 RBI in 354 at-bats.
Those are hardly the numbers the Braves expect from a hitter they're paying $3.5 million this year.
"It's disturbing a little bit because he is a power hitter," Cox admitted. "I think his new stance is going to help him get on the ball a little quicker."
Also left unsaid was that Klesko was in the lineup because Danny Bautista, who makes most of the starts against left-handers, is on the disabled list. Cox had a choice between two left-handed-hitting outfielders, Klesko or Michael Tucker. If Bautista was healthy, Klesko, hitting .167 against lefties, probably wouldn't have played.
Klesko has made some adjustments in his stance, lowering his hands and resting the bat on his shoulder, but it hasn't made an impact lately. He's hit .219 in his last 10 games without a RBI.
"Sure, I'm not satisfied with 20 home runs, but all I'm trying to do is get ready for the playoffs," he said. "I'm not hitting .220, I'm hitting .280, but my power numbers are off. The year ain't over. If I have good numbers in the playoffs, who cares if I hit 20 homers or 30 homers?" ...
Wes Helms looked over at third base where Chipper Jones is 26 and a three-time All-Star and realized his future may not be in the infield. That's why the third baseman, recalled from Class AAA Richmond on Thursday, has started tinkering with the outfield, figuring if he wants to break into the lineup it might be wise to find another position.
"I've got the arm strength and the agility to play the outfield," he said. "Chipper is still young, he's still in his prime. The way I look at it is, I'll work my butt off at third and if they want me to go to the outfield, I'll work my butt off out there."
Helms, who turned 22 in May, has been with the Braves for the last two years during spring training, so he's not awestruck at finally arriving in the major leagues. He produced a solid season at Richmond, hitting .275 with 13 homers and a club-leading 75 RBI, and with Cox planning to give Jones some time off, Helms will be in the lineup occasionally during the final month.
"Right now I've got butterflies and I will until my first game," he said. "I'm not scared. It's baseball. It's the big leagues, there's a lot better atmosphere up here, but baseball is baseball." ...
Andruw Jones, hitting .421 with three homers in his last 10 games, needs two more home runs to reach 25 and give the Braves an Atlanta record. The Braves already have three players with 25 home runs -- Andres Galarraga (40), Chipper Jones (30) and Javy Lopez (28) -- and when Jones joins the group it will mark the first time in Atlanta history the club has had four players with as many homers.
The last time it happened was in 1965 when the Milwaukee Braves also had four -- Hank Aaron (32), Eddie Mathews (32), Mack Jones (31) and Joe Torre (27).
"I ain't trying (to hit home runs), but if they throw me a pitch, I'll hit it," Jones said. ...
Galarraga headed into Friday night's game riding a 13-game hitting streak, during which he's hit .360 with four homers and 15 RBI. The streak was uninterrupted when he was hit by a pitch Aug. 22 in his first at-bat against the Dodgers, charged the mound and was ejected.
Galarraga is hitting .341 with seven homers and 22 RBI in 24 games this month. ...
National League president Leonard Coleman will meet with Cox and Galarraga to discuss the first baseman's three-game suspension Tuesday in Atlanta. Coleman apparently was coming to Atlanta on other business and decided to hear the appeal then, rather than wait until the Braves arrive in New York next weekend.
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