Originally created 05/30/99

Braves notebook

ATLANTA -- After throwing for 27 minutes during a simulated game Saturday afternoon, John Smoltz indicated he wasn't certain if he'd start Wednesday's game.

He plans to evaluate his right elbow during the next two days and make a decision following a brief workout Monday.

"It didn't hurt," said Smoltz, who went on the disabled list with an inflamed elbow 12 days ago. "I felt a little rusty around the strike zone. For the most past, I guess I was satisfied. I threw the ball, at times, pretty good."

During Saturday's simulated game, Smoltz faced Keith Lockhart, Brian Hunter, Otis Nixon and Eddie Perez and there were few balls hit hard. That was an encouraging sign, but the right-hander wasn't willing to pronounce himself ready to make a start yet.

"The only thing I need to do is trust myself and not expect to be perfect," he said. "I left on a good roll and I would like to pick up on that."

Smoltz threw his breaking pitches well, but he wasn't satisfied with the command of his fastball. That's what concerns him the most in preparing for his next start.

"(I won't start Wednesday) if I feel I can't make adjustments with my fastball," he said. "I want to make sure I feel I can go out there and be effective and after today, that helps. We'll see how it rebounds and make a decision."

If Smoltz makes Wednesday's start, he'll bump fifth starter Odalis Perez from his scheduled start. ...

In the past, opposing managers would see Chipper Jones approaching the plate late in games and call in a left-hander, forcing Jones to bat from his weaker right side. Not anymore. With increased attention to his right-handed swing and a Don Baylor-inspired, take-no-prisoners approach, he's forced managers to choose their poison.

The switch-hitting Jones is batting .340 right-handed with half of his 12 homers coming from that side. His power is the biggest surprise. In 678 career at-bats entering this season he had only 12 homers as a right-handed hitter. Already he has six home runs in 50 at-bats against left-handers this year.

Jones has made an adjustment in his right-handed stance, lowering his elbow, which had a tendency to cause a loop in his swing, but most of the difference is in his approach.

"My whole mentality has changed," he said. "I used to go up and worry about hitting .300 from the right side. Don (Baylor) has changed my whole approach. He said, `You're the No. 3 hitter, people expect you to do damage from both sides of the plate.' "

In last weekend's series in Milwaukee, Brewers manager Phil Garner didn't want any part of Jones from the right side. Not once did he call on Mike Myers, one of the league's nastiest left-handed relievers, to face Jones.

Most people have stuck with right-handed pitchers," Jones said. "I know the numbers are going to be there at the end of the season from the left side. What people don't expect is to see the same numbers from the right side."

Jones, who started slowly, is riding his best stretch of the season. He's hit in 13 of his last 14 games, including the last five starlight, at a .360 clip with five homers and 14 RBI. It's not often he feels comfortable and confident from both sides of the plate at the same time, but that's how he feels now.

At his present pace, Jones would top his career-highs of 34 homers (1998) and 111 RBI (1997) and he's a sure bet to play in his fourth All-Star game. More importantly, he no longer feels he has a weakness because of lack of production from the right side.

"It's important to me to be thought of as a complete player," he said. "I don't want any doubts that I can hit from the right side. It's a good feeling to evaluate yourself as a major league player and say I don't have too many weaknesses in my game." ...

Shortstop Walt Weiss missed a third straight game Saturday because of a tender left quadriceps muscle and manager Bobby Cox indicated he would probably sit him down for this afternoon's series finale against the Dodgers.

"I feel some improvement," Weiss said. "I feel some soreness, but no the deep soreness I felt last year. We're just being cautious." ...

John Rocker is still nursing a blister on his left thumb and each time it's almost healed, he pitches again. The left-hander picked up his ninth save Friday night with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth inning, but also set back his recovery.

"If I can ever get two days off, it will get well," he said. "It was 95 percent (Friday), but it's probably about 80 percent today."

Rocker said the blister bothers him when he begins to warm up and within "five or 10 minutes it starts to numb up." The injury is nothing new for the left-hander who gets blisters every spring training, but this one became infected and hampered his recovery.


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