Originally created 07/05/99

Braves notebook



NEW YORK -- It doesn't count for much, but there's unanimous agreement in the Braves clubhouse that Kevin Millwood deserves to be an All-Star.

The numbers support the argument.

Only four National League pitchers have more than his 10 wins and only five have a better ERA than his 3.30 mark. Also, Millwood is seventh with 86 strikeouts and third in opponents batting average (.220). The fact is it will be almost impossible for Padres manager Bruce Bochy to keep the 24-year-old right-hander off his first All-Star team.

"You take the top 10 or 11 pitchers," said seven-time All-Star pitcher Greg Maddux. "I think he's in the top 10 in wins and ERA; what more do you want? He's pitched well enough to warrant heavy consideration."

Perhaps Millwood was on the bubble before Saturday's dominating eight-inning performance against the Mets, but his 10th win put him over the top. In the past, 10 wins has usually insured an All-Star berth.

"His numbers are as good as anybody else's, though Lord knows he doesn't get the attention," said six-time All-Star pitcher Tom Glavine.

Maddux and Glavine probably won't be selected this year, while John Smoltz is probably deserving, but won't go because of his sore elbow. That leaves Millwood and possibly closer John Rocker, whose 17 saves are the league's fifth-best total, as All-Star candidates.

"I've thought about it a little bit," Millwood said. "If they choose me, great, if not I won't get my hopes up so high I'll be disappointed. It would be great. It would be something I've never done in professional baseball. It would be one of the biggest thrills of my professional career." ...

Rocker's 17th save Saturday was in sharp contrast to his last appearance, when he blew a 5-1 lead in the ninth inning and took a 6-5 loss to the Expos Tuesday night. The left-hander made a slight adjustment in his delivery, bringing his arm away from his body, which eliminated his fastball from cutting back over the plate. That was the problem in Montreal, though it was something that had been building ever since the Houston series two weeks ago.

"It will keep the ball four to five inches away from the hitter, as opposed to the middle of the plate in," he said.

Rocker could see an immediate difference in the ninth inning Saturday and so could the Mets. A wild pitch and Todd Pratt's single put runners on the corners with no outs, then he forced soft flies from Edgardo Alfonzo and John Olerud and struck out Mike Piazza to end the game.

"My fastball was moving away from right-handed hitters, rather than in," Rocker said. "If it moves in to left-handed hitters, that's fine." ...

Brian Jordan will take his 100th career home run ball home with him to Atlanta and add it to several other milestone balls in his collection. He's got the ball that resulted in his first 100-RBI season in 1996, a hit off Mike Morgan, and his first major league home run.

Now he's focused on 200 home runs and figures in four years he'll be adding another ball to his display case.

"I think I can get to 200," he said. "(Hank Aaron's) 755 is amazing. I'm at 100. You can appreciate (his record) more."

Jordan spent three years with the Falcons, splitting his year between baseball and football, and says he has no regrets about delaying his emergence as one of the game's most productive hitters.

"I had fun in the NFL," he said. "Of course, I'd probably be a better baseball player right now if I hadn't played football."