Originally created 02/21/99

Braves notes: Wohlers is showing signs of improving

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Mark Wohlers left the mound Saturday morning with a smile on his face.

The right-hander, attempting to regain the command of his pitches after a disastrous 1998 season, was around the plate with 25-30 pitches during batting practice, drawing a shout of encouragement from manager Bobby Cox. That was a sharp contrast to Thursday's outing, when he hit Mike Mahoney twice and was all over the cage with his pitches.

"It's gotten better each day," Wohlers said. "But I'm realistic to know there might be days where it looks like I've never picked up a baseball in my life. I'm prepared for that. I'm not going to drive myself crazy."

Wohlers says he's made an adjustment in his attitude that's helped his mental approach on the mound.

"I think the thing that's going to help me the most is have the attitude that I don't give a damn," he said. "Whereas, deep down I care dearly. That's my problem, I care too much. I care about pleasing my teammates, the fans in the stands, people watching on TV, I don't allow myself any room for error. (Now) I don't let it get deep down like I did last year."

Wohlers is still struggling to regain full command of his dominating fastball, but he's made steady progress and he's encouraged.

"The big thing is I was able to adjust," he said. "Come back and correct it. The first two days I'd throw 10 or 15 right down there (in the dirt). Today, maybe one or two and I made the adjustment."

PEREZ RECOVERING: After undergoing surgery to stop testicular bleeding Friday night, catcher Eddie Perez remained in the Osceola Regional Medical Center on Saturday. He was scheduled to be released today, but is expected to miss at least two weeks, possible longer.

"If he can catch, even in three weeks, he'll be OK," Cox said. "We'll plan for him to be with us. We've got plenty of guys who can catch and throw in camp, so we're covered."

Perez was injured when a foul tip bounced in the dirt and struck him Friday morning. Complaining of pain, he was sent to a local doctor, who discovered the bleeding. During the surgery, doctors needed 15 stitches to close the wound.

SAFE AT FIRST: Former Braves first baseman Brian Hunter, released by the Cardinals last season, called former bench coach Jim Beauchamp six weeks ago and asked about a job. Beauchamp passed along Hunter's interest to Cox and when Andres Galarraga was diagnosed with cancer, the club put in a call to Hunter and signed him to a minor league contract.

"I've always liked Brian's bat and liked his defense," Cox said. "He's a way-above average first baseman and he gives us protection. He can be a great late-inning guy, come in and play defense, or he can platoon. If we want to do something else, we can."

General manager John Schuerholz said he didn't plan on bringing any other first basemen into camp, but didn't close the door to making a deal later in the spring.

"We're satisfied with what we've got right now," he said. "When (Hunter) played before for us he was a fine defensive first baseman and that's as important in this role as anything."

Still, while Schuerholz indicated he doesn't plan on making an immediate move, he had special assistant Bill Lajoie scouting first baseman Hal Morris at the Cincinnati Reds camp Friday.

GOING GOLFING: Greg Maddux and John Smoltz will miss today's workout to play in Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino's charity golf tournament in Miami. Cox gave permission for the pair to skip a day to play golf for a good cause. The tournament raises $300,000 each year for the Dan Marino Foundation, which benefits Marino Child NETT, a pediatric diagnosis and treatment facility for children with neurological disorders.

WEISS READY: Shortstop Walt Weiss reported to camp two days early, saying the left quadriceps that bothered him throughout last season is fully recovered and he's running pain-free again.

"It feels great, there's no hint of it," he said. "Rest was the main thing. I've been running as hard as I could and I don't feel it."

Weiss said he changed his workout routine this winter to strengthen his legs. After resting for two months, he began running last month and incorporated a lot of sprints into the workouts, more running than he's done in preparation for a season in several years.

"I made some changes," he said. "Mainly, a lot more running. Running on a track, running 60s and 100s and 220s and it feels good."


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