PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Outfielder George Lombard's impending surgery may open a door for shortstop Mark DeRosa.
General manager John Schuerholz acknowledged Friday that he's shopping for a backup outfielder to replace Lombard, but if he's unable to find one he would be willing to keep an extra infielder.
"We'll look and see what's available out there," Schuerholz said. "We've already begun talking to some clubs. But, if we don't get the right quality guy, it's silly to add him just to add him."
If the Braves can't find an outfielder, they can use third baseman/first baseman Wes Helms, who will play left field and right this spring, as an extra outfielder and carry DeRosa, whom manager Bobby Cox describes as the most improved player in camp.
If the Braves trade for an outfielder, preferably a right-handed hitter, it's unlikely DeRosa will make the club. The team already has backup infielders in Helms, Kurt Abbott and Keith Lockhart and DeRosa would probably start the season at Class AAA Richmond for the third straight year.
EYE OPENER: Cory Aldridge, a 21-year-old outfielder who played at Class A Myrtle Beach last year, opened eyes in both dugouts during the Braves' 4-2 win over the Mets Friday afternoon. The left-handed hitter blasted a pair of solo homers, the first off starter Steve Trachsel in the third, then another against reliever Turk Wendell in the fifth, and both were rockets that didn't need any help from the wind.
UP IN THE AIR: The battle for a pair of bullpen jobs is no more defined now than when camp opened. A half-dozen pitchers remain in the hunt and though there's a clear pair of frontrunners in Jason Marquis and Kevin McGlinchy, the competition is far from settled.
"They're all looking good," Cox said. "There's a lot to choose from." Marquis has appeared in two games without allowing a run and McGlinchy had allowed only one hit before Mets All-Star second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo homered against him Friday. There's a large group behind them just itching for a chance to impress Cox.
Chris Seelbach enhanced his chances Friday with an impressive fourth inning, striking out Jay Payton, Alex Escobar and Joe McEwing in order after the first two hitters reached base.
Seelbach picked up two more strikeouts in the fifth and now leads the staff with five in three innings.
BELLE TOLLS: So much for the idea of keeping Albert Belle's locker intact as a monument to the ailing slugger.
Belle's career ended Thursday evening when the Baltimore Orioles announced that he was "totally disabled and unable to perform as a major league baseball player" because of a degenerative right hip.
Before the Orioles faced the New York Mets in an exhibition game at Fort Lauderdale Stadium on Thursday night, Belle's locker was left the way it was before visiting team doctors on Wednesday.
Three hours later, by the end of the game, everything was gone but the clothes hangers. Even his name plate was removed.
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