Originally created 05/18/99

Braves notebook: Nixon takes benching in stride



ATLANTA -- Otis Nixon has, at least temporarily, lost his starting job in left field after sitting for the second straight day as shortstop Walt Weiss led off and Gerald Williams played left and batted eighth in Monday night's series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Manager Bobby Cox met with Nixon in Chicago on Sunday and told him that he wanted to try something different.

"It ticks me off that you can't get it going, but I'm not going to rush anything," said Nixon, who is hitting .181 in 29 games after matching his career high with a .297 batting average last season.

"I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be doing, except you pick up the paper and see the 0-for's. But, because I'm an older player, I know not to change anything," Nixon said.

Nixon was taking the change well, saying "I'm a team player, and it's the team thing to do." Cox acknowledged that Nixon has done everything the Braves want him to do, specifically hitting the ball on the ground, but he had not received any breaks.

"We're just trying to get something going," Cox said. "I told Otis yesterday that we'll try this for a while."

EARLY WORK:

It is not often that a superstar in full dress appears on the field at 4:25 p.m. before a 7:40 p.m. start, but Chipper Jones put in early work on his swing Monday afternoon.

"No, but I don't often hit .260 for two months either," Jones said. "I've got some things wrong with my swing, and you've got to swing, swing, swing until you get comfortable with it. ... As bad as things are for me, where when most people struggle they hit .200, it could be worse. One hot stretch and I'll be right back where I need to be."

Jones entered Monday's game hitting .259 overall and .220 from his predominant left-handed side. He said he is tinkering with his hands and setup after "developing a little bit of a loop" in his swing.

One major adjustment Jones has made is that he is now starting with his hands lower and closer to him instead of high and away from his body.

"It keeps me inside the ball better. I can't the ball to left field anymore, and that's always been a big part of my game," said Jones, who showed improvement in going the opposite way during his extra work. "I was hitting low and inside pitches over the wall in dead center field, and when you can do that, it's a good sign."

RELIEVED RELIEVER:

Russ Springer returned to Turner Field after an extended stay in Richmond, where he was 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA and two saves in 11 appearances. The right-hander had elbow chips removed from his right elbow last October before undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured disk in his lower back in January.

"I think it's amazing to come back as quickly as I have from major surgery, because I've been throwing 100 percent for four weeks now," Springer said.

The Braves also returned emergency catcher Pascual Matos to Richmond and recalled first baseman Randall Simon, who was with the club until catcher Javy Lopez had to miss a week after his mother's death. Simon his .344 with one home run and three runs batted in over 16 games before leaving for Richmond.