Originally created 02/22/99

Braves notes: Nixon key player in Braves scheme



LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Joking that he wanted to renegotiate his contract now that he's the leadoff hitter and left fielder, Otis Nixon proved Sunday that you can come home again.

Returning to a team that made him a regular in 1991 for the first time in his career, the veteran outfielder expressed sadness for longtime friend Andres Galarraga and said everyone would have to "turn it up a notch" to compensate for the loss of the first baseman.

"From my standpoint, it shouldn't be any added pressure," Nixon said. "It gives us something extra to play for."

Nixon, who made a tour of the American and National Leagues since leaving the Braves after the 1993 season, playing with the Red Sox, Rangers, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Twins, gives the Braves their speediest leadoff hitter since Kenny Lofton two years ago.

Still one of the fastest players in the game at age 40, he hit .297 and stole 37 bases last season in Minnesota and heads into the season tied for 16th on the all-time steal list with 594.

News of the loss of Galarraga for the season placed additional emphasis on Nixon's return. He was signed on Dec. 1 as a free agent to strengthen the bench, but with Ryan Klesko shifting to first base, Nixon will take over in left field, the first time he's played the position on a regular basis.

"I can catch the ball anywhere," he said. "Left, right, center, whatever, I can make some quick adjustments. Every now and then I go over there to take balls, just to do it."

When the rest of the squad reports today and works out for the first time Tuesday morning, Nixon won't recognize many faces. The only players remaining from his first stint with the Braves are the Fab Three of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, and the center fielder (Andruw Jones) he'll play alongside is half his age.

"It's like riding around I-285 in Atlanta," Nixon said. "You drive around right back to the same point."

LOCKHART MAKING STRIDES: Second baseman Keith Lockhart says his surgically repaired left shoulder is holding up well to the rigors of swinging a bat and fielding ground balls. He has been swinging at balls off a tee, but will graduate to live pitching Tuesday when position players arrive.

"I'm swinging hard enough that if it's going to hurt it will, but it's been all right," he said. "I feel fine about it."

PEREZ OUT OF HOSPITAL: Catcher Eddie Perez, who underwent surgery to stop testicular bleeding Friday night, was released from Osceola Regional Medical Center on Sunday. He's expected to begin rehab in a few days, but isn't expected to play for two to three weeks.