ATLANTA -- The end of Class AAA Richmond's season Monday resulted in five players being called up by the Braves -- outfielder Pedro Swann, infielders Wes Helms, Tom Unroe and Mark DeRosa, and pitcher Kevin McGlinchy.
Swann, who at age 29 is making his first trip to the major leagues, put together his most consistent season with the R-Braves. He hit .305 (tied for 8th in the International League) with nine home runs and 57 RBI in 125 games, and after 10 years in the minor leagues, he's been rewarded for his persistence.
"I'm used to making the trip back to Delaware after the season and either playing winter ball or finding a job," said Swann, who's worked as a bank's financial analyst the past couple of winters. "When they called me into the office and told me I was coming here, it was the best feeling of my life."
The left-handed-hitting Swann is a career .291 hitter in the minors, but he's never been considered one of the organization's top prospects. He was stuck in a revolving door at Class AA Greenville, spending parts of five seasons there, then spent 1998-99 with Toledo, the Tigers' Class AAA affiliate, before re-signing with the Braves last winter.
"I always had the attitude of I had to be in the right place at the right time," said Swann, who has 1,049 hits in the minor leagues. "I had the numbers, but the opportunity wasn't there."
Of the latest quintet of arrivals, the one who could end up helping the most is McGlinchy. Sidelined for most of the season with tendinitis in his shoulder, he says he's pitching pain-free and has regained his aggressiveness and confidence.
"This time I got some satisfaction, as far as absorbing every outing," said McGlinchy, who was 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA in nine games at Richmond. "I'm back in a comfort zone and I have command of the strike zone with three pitches."
If McGlinchy could recapture last season's effectiveness (7-3, 2.82 ERA in 64 games) he could give the bullpen a significant boost.
Helms, 24, put up the best numbers of his career, which was interrupted last year by shoulder surgery. Playing in his third season at Richmond, he hit .289 with a career-high 20 homers and 87 RBI in 134 games. With many other organizations, Helms would already be in the major leagues as the regular third baseman. But, with perennial All-Star Chipper Jones having just signed a six-year contract, he knows his future isn't at the hot corner, at least, not in Atlanta.
So, Helms, who is out of options and will probably make the team as an extra infielder next season, is going to winter ball in Venezuela to learn to play first base and the outfield.
"First base is an option or even backing up (Andres Galarraga)," Helms said. "Or, I could be somewhere else at third."
Given his choice, Helms prefers to remain in Atlanta. With a group of possible free agents that includes Galarraga, Reggie Sanders and Bobby Bonilla, the Braves are going to have jobs available next spring.
"I'll be way more comfortable here than somewhere else," Helms said. "When you're a class organization like Atlanta, you want to be there, even if it takes two years longer."
Last week it was Mike Remlinger who missed two games with flu-like symptoms. This week it's Kerry Ligtenberg. He was unavailable Tuesday night and Bobby Cox was uncertain when he might be back.
NOT-SO GREAT DISTINCTION:
Greg McMichael has the distinction of having the largest rotator cuff tear well-known orthopedist Dr. James Andrews had ever seen repaired in his right shoulder.
"It was the size of a silver dollar," said McMichael, who underwent surgery July 18.
McMichael plans to begin throwing in November and hopes to return to a mound in January. So far, his recovery has proceeded smoothly.
"There's been some real positive signs," he said. "I had my full range of motion back at four weeks and my strength is good."
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