Originally created 06/28/99

Braves notebook: Jordan approaching home run milestone



ATLANTA -- Clapping hands over his ears, Brian Jordan shook his head Sunday morning and rolled his eyes.

"Oh, man, don't tell me that," he said when it was mentioned that his next homer will be the 100th of his career. "I'll never get it now."

Jordan, who reached a career-high with 25 homers last season, is on pace to surpass 30 home runs and drive in 130 runs. He had 15 homers and 56 RBI at the All-Star break last year; he already has 15 homers and has driven in 61 runs this season.

"It ain't 500 or 700-something, but it's a milestone," Jordan said of his 100th. "Hopefully, somebody will give (the ball) back to me."

Though he leads the club in homers and ranks among the league's top 15, Jordan doesn't consider himself a home run hitter. His focus remains driving in runs and scoring runs, with an eye on hitting .300.

"I don't know what my potential is as far as home runs," he said. "I just go out and try not to hit them and they come. I don't think about homers, I think about driving the ball somewhere. My focus is on 100 RBI, 100 runs and hitting .300."

ROSTER MOVES:

Following Sunday's game, the Braves optioned reliever Justin Speier to Class AAA Richmond and recalled right-hander John Hudek from his rehab assignment and reinstated him to the roster.

The move wasn't a surprise. Hudek's 30-day assignment was scheduled to end Tuesday, and Speier needs to work on an off-speed pitch.

"It's been fun," said Speier, who had no record and a 5.65 ERA in 19 games. "I'll go down and keep my focus and work hard."

Hudek, who went down after recovering from a blister on his right hand, wasn't impressive at Richmond. He worked in 12 games and posted a 6.35 ERA, yielding 14 hits in 11 1/3 innings, while striking out 17.

NEW APPROACH:

Scouts watching John Smoltz pitch recently undoubtedly are filing reports that indicate he has virtually abandoned his killer slider.

Not true, the right-hander says, but it doesn't hurt to give opposing hitters something new to chew on.

"I'm not going to throw 40 sliders like I once did," Smoltz said. "But they never know when I'm going to use it."

Trying to protect his elbow since coming off the disabled list, he has adjusted his delivery, raising his arm into an overhand position, and begun throwing more fastballs and changeups.

As long as his mechanics remain sound, there's no strain on his elbow, even when he throws a slider. The pitch remains a weapon, but one he uses only occasionally now, rather than one of every three pitches, as in the past.

"I'm not pitch to totally protect my elbow, my mechanics will do that," he said. "As long as (my arm) is up and in a position to throw my pitches, then nothing affects it. When I'm out there pitching, nobody knows the difference, whether it's the audience or the hitters."

Since coming off the DL, Smoltz has won three of four decisions and worked six innings or more in all but one of his five starts. He'll go again Tuesday night in the second game of a four-game series in Montreal.

BEAT UP:

A week into his duty as the regular catcher with Javy Lopez on the disabled list, Eddie Perez is so beat up he has bruises on top of bruises.

The last three games have been a painful exercise in the hazards of catching, forcing him to spend more time in the trainers room than in the past three years combined.

Thanks to a series of foul tips, Perez has a cantaloupe-sized bruise on his left thigh, a purplish, grapefruit-sized bruise on his right biceps, a black eye and he just had the six stitches above his eye removed.

"The hitters feel bad, they say, `You OK, man?' " Perez said. "I tell them, hit that stuff up the middle, dude."

Perez has long sought an opportunity to catch every day, but now he's reconsidering his ambition. Maybe it's not so bad being a backup, after all.

"I can't wait for Javy to get back," Perez said. "Maybe I can go on the DL for a week. It's killing me."

Bill Zack, who covers the Braves for The Augusta Chronicle, is based in Atlanta and can be reached at bzack30143@aol.com