NEW YORK -- Unable to sleep Thursday morning, John Rocker sat down at the desk in his Manhattan hotel room at 2 a.m. and wrote an apology to his teammates and New Yorkers.
Saying he was "happy to be back in New York, believe it or not," he read the statement before a room crammed with reporters and TV crews before Thursday night's game.
Describing the situation that has erupted around his infamous remarks in December's Sports Illustrated article as a "distraction" to the Braves, Rocker sincerely apologized and asked that fans and the media start focusing on baseball and the pennant race.
"Unfortunately, many members of the media have overestimated my significance," he said. "I'm merely a baseball player," he said. "In the great scheme of things my thoughts, opinions and attitudes are of little importance. There's an exciting season going on and it's time that it received the media's full attention."
Rocker, who said New Yorkers and the media have misjudged him ("I'm not the evil person that has been portrayed"), didn't take any questions after finishing his statement.
Ten minutes before the start of the game, Rocker was shown reading his statement on the Mets' video board in left-center field and, not surprisingly, he received a chorus of boos.
ON THE WRONG FOOT:
It wasn't enough that 700 police officers and 300 media members greeted the Braves at Shea Stadium.
No, their first day in the Big Apple took a turn for the worse right away when Greg Maddux, Thursday night's scheduled starter, and hitting coach Merv Rettenmund were sent back to the team's Manhattan hotel suffering from flu-like symptoms.
That wasn't the only bad news. Reliever Mike Remlinger apparently experienced an allergic reaction to the dye used in Tuesday's MRI of his left elbow and he won't pitch until the weekend, at the earliest.
There was one bright spot. Rookie shortstop Rafael Furcal rejoined the team from his three-game rehab assignment with Class AA Greenville and will be in tonight's lineup. Mark DeRosa returned to Class AAA Richmond to make room for Furcal.
"Right now, I don't have any pain," said Furcal, who spent two weeks on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. "I feel good. I want to play."
With 17 homers and 71 RBI at the All-Star break last season, Brian Jordan was an easy selection to the National League team. Hitting .294 with 12 homers and 45 RBI this season, he'll have three days off next month during the break.
"I don't think it's disappointing; it's different circumstances," he said. "I started with a (sore) rib cage and that started me off slowly. My RBI aren't where I want them to be. I got used to hitting behind Chipper (Jones) last year and having opportunities to drive in runs constantly.
"This year I'm not doing that. Cat (Andres Galarraga) is doing that. He's either cleaning them out or making the third out. I've been trying to create my own RBI by hitting homers, and I'm not a home run hitter, and it's taken away from my game."
Like Jordan last year, Andruw Jones is anxiously awaiting word on his first All-Star team. Bobby Cox hasn't indicated to him whether he's going, leaving the center fielder to answer the questions as best he can.
"My friends ask me about whether I'm going to make it," said Jones, who is hitting .320 with 21 homers and 48 RBI. "I say, I don't know, man, I just got to hang out and be patient."
Reliever Rudy Seanez underwent Tommy John Surgery to replace the ligament in his right elbow Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. The surgery, performed by Dr. James Andrews, was described as successful. Seanez will be out for the next 12 to 18 months.
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