NEW YORK -- The news that Chipper Jones had returned to Atlanta to be with his pregnant wife and that third base belonged to Bobby Bonilla on Friday night took the 14-year veteran by surprise.
"It's not that big a deal," said Bonilla, who hadn't played third since 1998, when he appeared in 85 games with the Marlins and Dodgers. "I practice over there as much as I can. I knew I'd have to do it once or twice; it wasn't going to be often because that guy doesn't miss too many games."
Jones called Bobby Cox at 11 a.m. at the team hotel and told him his wife, Sharon, was heading for the hospital. He's expected to rejoin the team today.
Bonilla, who has played first, third and the outfield during his career, was asked whether playing third again was like riding a bicycle. He grinned and said, "I don't know about that, but I haven't fallen off a bike yet."
That may be true, but two years ago he wasn't considered a good defensive third baseman. In just 85 games, he had 17 errors in 200 chances, a .915 fielding percentage. In 1997, when he was the regular third baseman for the world champion Marlins, he was charged with 22 errors.
YOUNG TALENT: Jason Marquis is quickly turning into a bullpen force. The 21-year-old who was recalled from Class AA Greenville June 5 showed the Mets a 95 mph fastball Thursday night, then used a slider to strike out Mike Piazza with a runner on first to end the seventh.
"He's got the kind of stuff to strike out hitters when it's not over the plate, too," Cox said. "When you throw that hard, he'll make you chase. And, he's a tough kid, he doesn't scare. Nothing fazes him."
A native of Manhasett, N.Y., Marquis had about 40 family and friends at the game. He was wild with his first few pitches and allowed a single to Benny Agbayani, which prompted Jones to come to the mound and offer some encouragement.
"(Chipper) said, `The guys believe in you. You belong here,"' Marquis said. "It was a little confidence boost. It makes you feel part of the team."
Marquis responded by coaxing an inning-ending double play from pinch-hitter Lenny Harris, then worked a scoreless seventh.
"I thought (Thursday) I took a leap forward," Marquis said. "I didn't think they'd throw me into the fire that quick, but I'll take it."
BULLPEN SETBACK: Reliever Mike Remlinger has spent most of his time since rejoining the team Thursday night receiving treatment on his left elbow. He had a reaction to the dye doctors injected in him during an MRI on Tuesday, and his elbow is swollen and sore.
Remlinger said the reaction happened quickly. By the time he reached home after leaving the doctor's office he said his range of motion was "next to nothing."
"Now it's a matter of how long is it going to take to get my range of motion back," he said. "There's nothing I can do until the swelling gets out of there. Until then, I can't throw."
Trainers are giving him hot and cold treatments, massaging his arm, icing it and stimulating it. Remlinger hopes to wake up this morning with the swelling gone, but he's also aware it might be next week before he's able to throw again.
REGGIE'S ACHING BACK: Reggie Sanders was a late scratch from Friday night's lineup because of a sore back. Trenidad Hubbard replaced him in left field.
CONTROVERSY CONFRONTATION: General manager John Schuerholz doesn't plan on sitting down with Major League Baseball officials while the team is here to discuss the catcher's box controversy that erupted in Atlanta last weekend.
"I haven't spoken completely to the folks at MLB," he said. "Things are being discussed."
It's likely nothing will come of the investigation, other than demonstrating that the catcher's box is not uniform throughout baseball. MLB is also likely to allow umpires to inform catchers when their feet exceed the lines, rather than create a scene like veteran umpire John Shulock did when he called a catcher's balk on rookie Fernando Lunar.
READY TO GO: Greg Maddux, who was sick and missed Thursday night's scheduled start, said he was much better Friday. He'll go to the mound this afternoon against Mets left-hander Al Leiter.
"I was upset I missed my start," Maddux said. "I felt like I could have made it, but I'm better off that I didn't. It isn't that big a deal."
RICHMOND BOUND: The Braves expect reliever Kevin McGlinchy to start a rehab assignment next week, possibly with Class AAA Richmond. The right-hander, who's been on the disabled list with a stiff shoulder since May 24, will need to make at least four or five appearances to prove he's ready and his shoulder is sound.
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