ATLANTA -- Kerry Ligtenberg is 2-for-2 in save situations without throwing anything but fastballs.
He pitched the ninth inning against the Rockies last Wednesday and the ninth against the Giants Saturday without having to throw a slider or use his split-finger fastball.
He's not reluctant to use either pitch, but with two-run and three-run leads, the situation in each game dictated his use of fastballs.
His approach has produced outstanding numbers. He's allowed just one hit and opposing hitters have managed a .167 average against him.
"I feel really good about the fact that I'm not 100 percent right now, but I'm still able to get people out," said Ligtenberg, who missed last season following elbow surgery. "I have a lot of room for improvement, but I'm taking steps in the right direction."
Ligtenberg has been given the go-ahead to throw his split-finger, which places a lot of stress on his elbow, but he's saving it for when he needs it the most.
"I can throw it if I need to throw it," he said.
BIG CAT IS BACK:
With three homers and nine RBI in five games, Andres Galarraga's triumphant return from cancer has inspired his teammates and become the talk of baseball.
"He's been carrying us," Chipper Jones said.
"He's more than a Cat," first base coach Glenn Hubbard said. "He's the Lion King."
Galarraga has his sights set on July's All-Star game at Turner Field. He says he's using the game as motivation, hoping to be an All-Star for the fifth time and use the experience to thank fans for their support.
"It's a lot of motivation," he said. "Losing one year, then making the All-Star would be great."
Rafael Furcal is making a smooth transition from Class A ball to the majors. He made his debut at shortstop Tuesday, shifted to second base Saturday night, then was back at shortstop Sunday.
After his first week in the big leagues Furcal is hitting .429, and manager Bobby Cox isn't afraid to write his name in the lineup at either position. The youngster has showed off an arm that Jones says is "one of the best I've ever seen" and he's shown good instincts and startling quickness.
"It seems like there's always something happening when he plays," Cox said.
That was never more evident than in the third inning Sunday when Furcal led off with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on Reggie Sanders' fly and stole home on the back end of a double-steal with Jones.
It was the Braves' first steal of home since Andruw Jones did it at Florida last April 26.
"I think he's vying for more playing time," Chipper Jones said. "He hasn't shown any weaknesses so far."
Chipper Jones is hitting .304, but he's not happy with his swing, particularly his left-handed stroke.
He's produced a .267 average left-handed and has just two RBI, hardly the production expected from the reigning MVP.
He says he's been impatient at the plate and he's getting himself out. He's also hitting a mere .250 with runners in scoring position, a situation he excelled at last season when he hit .308.
The problem is his painful right elbow is limiting how much extra work he can do in the batting cage. He has days when he takes batting practice and others when his elbow bothers him so much he can't swing before a game.
"I can't risk hurting it any more than it already is," he said. "I have good days when I get a lot of work in, but other days I have to save my swings. I usually have one bad day a week. Fortunately, the one bad day last week was on the off day."
Quilvio Veras is off to a slow start, hitting .235 without a stolen base. He's been hampered by a twinge in his left hamstring and didn't start Saturday and Sunday, though he's not using the injury as an excuse.
He's not been a patient hitter, though a slow start is not unusual for him. He hit .192 last April and his .243 career average in April is his worst average for any month.
Andruw Jones hasn't carried his spring success into the season. He hit .397 during the exhibition season, but he's off to a .227 start with two homers.
There are times he frustrates hitting coach Merv Rettenmund by failing to bring into a game the same approach he takes during batting practice.
Rettenmund wants Jones to focus on hitting the ball up the middle, but the center fielder will occasionally resort to his old approach and chase breaking pitches off the plate.
John Burkett may be out of a job when Rudy Seanez and John Rocker return.
The veteran right-hander, who is being used out of the bullpen, has made two appearances and been stung for four hits and four earned runs. Hitters are batting .400 against him and if he doesn't improve, he could be released when Seanez recovers from a strained muscle.
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