Originally created 10/02/00

Braves notebook



ATLANTA -- Wes Helms is realistic enough to know the odds were against him making the Braves' postseason roster, but that knowledge didn't ease his disappointment when Bobby Cox broke the news to him Sunday morning.

"I would have liked to have been there," said Helms, who hit 20 home runs and amassed 88 RBIs at Class AAA Richmond. "It would be a good experience. But I can respect their decision."

Helms, a third baseman throughout his career, leaves for winter league baseball Oct. 12, and he'll work on his skills at first base and in the outfield in an effort to make the Braves in spring training next. He's out of options, so if the Braves choose not to keep him with the major-league club, they have to put him on waivers.

"I belong in the big leagues," he said. "If that happens, somebody else will pick me up. This is my career. It's how I'm going to support my family down the road. If it's not with this team, then it will be somewhere else."

The Braves' uncertainties in the off-season could work in Helms' favor. Andres Galarraga is a free agent at the end of the year, and it's unlikely the Braves will offer him a big contract considering his age and his health. Plus, Atlanta most likely will pursue a proven starter to replace Andy Ashby, who doesn't figure to be back next year, and that will require making money available.

Helms isn't concerned about those issues; he's focused on the things he can control.

"I'll be in the big leagues," he said. "I just don't know when it will be or where."

ROSTER OPTIONS:

The Braves' postseason roster will be announced today, and apparently they are down to two roster spots.

Catcher Tim Unroe, who led Richmond with 24 homers, may be on the postseason club when the Division Series starts Tuesday, though he was told Sunday no decision had been made.

"I'm traveling, but I don't know yet if I'm on the postseason roster," said Unroe.

If he is, it would mean Cox plans to use B.J. Surhoff in a pinch-hitter's role.

Surhoff doesn't appear to be ready to play in the field, but worked out behind the plate before Saturday's game and said he would have no problems catching. Cox considered using him in a third catcher's role, but that might mean declining to use him as a pinch-hitter.

MAKING A CASE:

Rafael Furcal is getting support from many corners for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, and he may not need much lobbying.

Referred to by some national media as the Braves' MVP, Furcal led NL rookies in five offensive categories, including stolen bases (40) and on-base percentage (.393) and batting average (.293).

STELLAR STATS:

The Braves finished the regular season with a team ERA of 4.06, the first time since 1990 it's been over 4.00, but still the best in the major leagues. They did their best work in the second half. At the All-Star break, the club ERA was 4.18. The Braves also finished with a .272 team batting average, matching the highest average they've had since coming to Atlanta. The club hit .272 in 1983 and again in 1998.