Originally created 08/18/99

Braves notebook: Smoltz prepares for Thursday start



DENVER -- John Smoltz threw on the side Monday and reported his strained right groin didn't hamper him.

He plans to make Thursday's start in the series finale against the Rockies, though if he was given a choice he'd skip working in a stadium where he's posted a 1-2 record and 7.20 ERA in three starts.

At this point, Smoltz will pitch anywhere as long as he can do it without his groin or his elbow bothering him. He admitted he was pleasantly surprised to feel no pain in his groin, though he has an advantage in having dealt with the injury numerous times in the past.

"I know the history of it," he said. "I know one day it can feel terrible and the next day after stimulation it can feel better. But I also know that when I do it one time I can do it two or three more times too. I know I've got to be cautious with it."

Smoltz is trying to strengthen the area with different exercises, but just four days after leaving his last start with the injury he knows it could bite him again at any time. That's especially true because of his new delivery, which places stress on parts of his body that are unaccustomed to the pounding.

"I've just got to get accustomed to the way I'm throwing," he said. "(The groin) is hanging in there. It's doing all right, but I can't be stupid and try to get doubles and triples."

GOAL IN SIGHT:

When John Rocker became the closer he set a goal of 30 saves. He's within four of that target and is just 13 saves away from matching Mark Wohlers' 1996 franchise record of 39 saves. The left-hander is riding a streak of 15 2/3 shutout innings and his 26 saves is tied for fifth in the National League.

Admitting he's somewhat surprised by the success he's had in his first season as a closer, Rocker said, "I really didn't know how good I'd be and if they'd stay with me all year. I thought getting 30 saves was maybe stretching it a little bit. I'm just kind of hoping that I can finish up strong."

FUTURISTIC LOOK:

As part of a promotion shared by Major League Baseball and Century 21, the Braves and Rockies will wear futuristic uniforms tonight. At first glance the Braves' uniforms don't look remarkably different. The top is blue with a red BRAVES logo across the chest, but on the back each player's name and number is listed vertically. Players will wear a red T-shirt beneath the top, giving them red sleeves, and the dark blue caps feature a silver bill.

"They look good, but I don't understand the name going straight down on back," manager Bobby Cox said. "It's fine with me. I've had fun with the old-time uniforms and I expect this to be fun too."

FUNGO BAT:

Atlanta's record streak of 42 straight games with at least one double dates back to July 1 and entering Tuesday night's game the doubles total stood at 90. Chipper Jones is the streak's doubles leader with 12, followed by Bret Boone with 11. ... Randall Simon, who hit .267 with one home run and six RBI in eight games at Class AAA Richmond, rejoined the club and third baseman Howard Battle was outrighted to Richmond on Tuesday. With Gerald Williams playing well in left field and Ryan Klesko and Brian Hunter sharing first base, Simon probably won't get many at-bats.