ATLANTA -- John Smoltz will pitch Saturday at Class AA Greenville, next Thursday with Class A Macon at Savannah, then hopes to make his first start with the Braves on May 16 or May 17.
The right-hander, given the go-ahead from Dr. James Andrews inBirmingham, Ala., Thursday, will be limited to 45 pitches in his firststart and 60 pitches in his second outing.
"I realize my biggest hurdle will be the adrenaline andintensity," said Smoltz, who hasn't pitched for the Braves since the1999 World Series. "It's been awhile since I pitched. I've got to getused to all the stuff you take for granted."
Smoltz, who underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery in Marchlast year, threw in the bullpen Thursday and said he's experiencingnormal soreness in his elbow. The elbow tendinitis that has sidelinedhim since spring training has not bothered him in two weeks.
Smoltz's assignment Saturday is to stretch 45 pitches across threeinnings. If he can do that, then pitch five innings Thursday, he'll beready to work six innings in his first start with the Braves.
"Results are really down the totem pole," he said. "What I'mtrying to do is maximize my pitches and get as close to five innings aspossible. I don't want to make my first start up here if I'm notcapable of going six innings."
The biggest test for Smoltz will be the period between innings. Hedoesn't know how his elbow will respond to pitching, then sitting, thenpitching again.
"Can I go out there in a game setting, warm up, cool down, thenwarm up again," he said. "Executing pitches is going to be my biggestthing."
With Smoltz's immediate future up in the air, the Braves areweighing the choice of sending down a reliever, probably MattWhiteside, and calling up a hitter. If Smoltz can only work five or sixinnings in his first couple of starts, then an extra arm in the bullpenis needed.
Yet, with Quilvio Veras sick and Javy Lopez hampered by a jammedthumb, the bench is thin and manager Bobby Cox would like to have anextra bat, like Greenville's Travis Wilson or Class AAA Richmond'sBernard Gilkey, on the bench. "We've been fine so far with five bench guys," Cox said. "Ithasn't burned us."
Andruw Jones' bat has cooled off since a hot (.324, 4 HR, 8 RBI)road trip. The problem, hitting coach Merv Rettenmund says, is hishands. Jones isn't getting them into a hitting position and the resulthas been a series of infield ground balls. "I started feeling like I was jumping, rushing to get into thestrike zone," said Jones, who headed into Thursday night's game withjust one hit in his last 14 at-bats. "I know basically what I'm doing.Actually, it's simple, but if you don't do it right, it's hard." Jones was out early Thursday afternoon for extra hitting withRettenmund and thinks he's corrected the problem. "I think I got it right," Jones said. "We'll see in the game." Said Rettenmund, "I'd be surprised if he didn't have a very goodgame tonight."
Greg Maddux set a personal high with 14 strikeouts and his 100thcomplete game Wednesday, then flipped the game ball toward his wife, Kathy, in the stands following the last out. It didn't reach her, butshe recovered it from a sympathetic fan.
"It's never really been a goal," said Maddux of reaching 100complete games. "It's nothing I ever really though of. But it gives mesomething to brag about when I'm out of the game, something to tell the grandkids."
THIS AND THAT:
Reliever Mike Remlinger was almost perfect through the firstthree weeks of the season, but in his last five appearances, he's givenup three home runs.
Brian Jordan had a rough start to the lengthy road trip, but he has13 hits in his last 32 at-bats. However, he's still struggling toproduce hits when they count the most, batting .174 with runners inscoring position and has just 11 RBI.
Rafael Furcal stole 40 bases last season, but he's just 3for 6 this year. His on-base percentage (.283) offers the bestexplanation for paltry total.
After opening the season with an eight-game hitting streak, RicoBrogna has three hits in his last 33 at-bats, dragging his average downto .253.
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