Originally created 04/30/01

Braves notebook



PHOENIX - There's no figuring out Javy Lopez. A hitter who batted .333 during the first eight games of the season has hit .173 since then. A hitter who hasn't hit less than .282 since his rookie season in 1994 is batting .228.

Lopez hit .278 with three home runs and 13 RBI last April. With only Sunday night's game remaining this month, Lopez has two homers and six RBI, and hasn't homered since April 9.

"I guess Randy Johnson is not the best guy to get my hitting going," said Lopez, who struck out twice in three at-bats against Arizona's left-hander Saturday night. "It's not fun hitting .230 the first month with two homers and six RBI. (Tom) Glavine might have the same numbers."

No, Glavine doesn't, but Quilvio Veras and Wes Helms have more RBI, and both have matched Lopez's two home runs. Lopez feels embarrassed by his lack of production, particularly his .136 average with runners in scoring position. He hasn't knocked in a run since April 13, a stretch of 48 fruitless at-bats, and the six RBI this month are his worst-ever April numbers, with the exception of the strike-shortened April of 1995.

"Lots of players make my numbers in one game," Lopez moaned. "It doesn't matter how hard I try, nothing is going right for me."

The reason why Lopez falls into lengthy slumps is because he tinkers with his swing and his stance. He tends to analyze everything when he's not swinging well, which just makes things worse.

Hitting coach Merv Rettenmund wants him to simplify his swing with a slight shoulder turn to get ready to hit, but Lopez thinks his problems at the plate are more complex.

"He was as good as any hitter in the league at the get-go, but right now he's giving up at-bats," Rettenmund said. "What's the word? Inconsistent."

NO PAIN:

Kevin Millwood threw from a bullpen mound Saturday and Sunday, and says there's no pain from the sore left hip that forced him out of Wednesday's game against the Astros.

"I haven't felt it at all the last couple of days," he said. Millwood will return to the mound Tuesday in the opener of a six-game homestand against Brewers and Cardinals.

ANOTHER INJURED BRAVE:

First baseman Rico Brogna sat out Sunday's series finale against the Diamondbacks with a sore right ankle. He fouled a pitch off the ankle in the Astros series and it swelled, causing him some discomfort when he entered Saturday night's game late.

"I could put up with the pain, but my mobility was limited," he said.

Brogna has iced his ankle every day and a Diamondbacks doctor was scheduled to examine him as a precaution before the start of Sunday's game.

Helms, who struck out three times against Johnson Saturday night, replaced Brogna at first base.

"You get two games in a row, it's easier to get your timing down," Helms said. "I go out today with a different outlook."

REHAB ASSIGNMENT:

Kurt Abbott plans to test his strained abdominal muscle Tuesday and if he can run hard, he'll go to Class AA Greenville for a couple of days for some at-bats before he's activated from the disabled list.

When Abbott is ready, Marcus Giles will probably return to Class AAA Richmond. That's not the only roster change on the horizon. The Braves are likely to send out a reliever this week and add a hitter because they no longer need six pitchers in the bullpen.

The team hasn't decided who will join the bench, though New Zealand native Travis Wilson remains a favorite after a strong spring and a solid start at Class AA Greenville. Class AAA Richmond infielder Mark DeRosa is another candidate.

FINALLY:

After taking a no-decision and a loss in his first two starts, Glavine has reverted to his usual April form. He's won his last four starts, and he's 10-1 with a 2.72 ERA in his last 13 April starts dating back to April 28, 1999.