PHOENIX - Damian Moss and Matt Whiteside received the calls Wednesday night.
Whiteside, who's bounced around pro ball since 1990, said he wasn't surprised at being promoted from Class AAA Richmond to the Braves. But pandemonium reigned in the Moss house. Damian and his wife, Emilie, had just returned from grocery shopping when he received the news from Richmond manager Carlos Tosca.
"It was pretty exciting," Moss said. "It was kind of crazy there for awhile. I think my wife was talking on three phones at once. I don't think it's really hit me yet. I'm still kind of in shock."
Moss, who's believed to be the first Australian to play for the Braves, has the Australian flag tattooed on his left biceps. But, he hasn't been home since 1998 because he's spent the last several winters rehabbing from "Tommy John surgery" performed on his left elbow in June 1998.
Moss, who ranked third in the International League with a 3.14 ERA last year, but also led the league in walks, focused on throwing strikes in his four starts this season. Working with Richmond pitching coach Guy Hansen, he concentrated on increasing his tempo, which improved his breaking pitches and his mechanics.
The improvement was striking. His strikeout-to-walk ratio improved from 123-106 last season to 30-7 this year. He averaged 5.9 walks per nine innings last year, but just 2.9 walks per nine innings this season.
"Maybe I was trying to be a little too fine last year," Moss said. "Now I'm trusting my stuff."
Manager Bobby Cox plans to use Moss and Whiteside in the bullpen, but that could change if Odalis Perez continues to pitch poorly as the fifth starter. Moss, who has appeared in 137 minor league games, 133 as a starter, could move into the rotation.
"The only time I've pitched out of the bullpen was in spring training," he said. "It will be something new. But the plus side is, guys haven't seen me yet."
Kevin Millwood left Wednesday's start with one out in the seventh with a sore left hip. After receiving heat and ultrasound treatment Thursday, he said the injury was better and he expected to make Tuesday's start against the Brewers.
"It's a little sore, but it feels better today that it did yesterday," he said. "It feels like it's an achy pain, but it's more aggravating than painful."
Millwood said he planned to take two days off from throwing, then test his hip Saturday.
Rico Brogna opened the season with an eight-game hitting streak (.423), but since then he's cooled off considerably.
He headed into Thursday night's opener of a four-game series against the Diamondbacks with just two hits in his last 19 at-bats, though he remains one of the team's best clutch hitters with a .462 average with runners in scoring position.
"I'd like to have a little more discipline in my pitch selection," he said. "But I wouldn't expect that hitting was going to be as easy for me as it was early in the season."
During the first weeks of the season, pitchers chose to work him on the inner half of the plate, testing his left wrist, which he broke last season. But he noticed the Astros used a different approach, varying location and changing speeds against him.
"Early on the tendency was to pitch me in hard and challenge my arm and see if it was healthy again," he said. "But the Astros moved the ball around on me and I chased them a little bit."
Brogna was just 2 for 12 in the three games against the Astros, though he knocked in three runs. He says he's going to change his strategy against the Diamondbacks.
"Even when you're doing well you still have to make adjustments," he said. "That, to me, is what hitting is all about at this level. The only time you worry is when you think your mechanics are messed up, but my mechanics are still good and consistent."
Check out the National League's home run leaders and five names down the list is Reggie Sanders. Yes, the same player who was so woeful at the plate last season the Braves traded for B.J. Surhoff to replace him in left field.
Sanders, who signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent, has eight homers, three less than he hit with the Braves in 340 at-bats, and he's batting .353 with 19 RBI. He credits a winter workout program and diet for improving his condition, which he says has led to his fast start.
"It was such a fight for me at the plate last year, more so physically, and then it became mentally," he said. "I did a lot of strength training and agility work, and put on 15 pounds, most of it muscle. Now I'm in much better shape than I was last year."
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