Originally created 05/26/01

Helms starts after flu sidelines Jones



ATLANTA - Suffering from the flu, Chipper Jones didn't start Friday night's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"I feel like I could play, but I don't feel like I can play for nine innings," Jones said, who was penciled into the third spot of the Braves' lineup against Pittsburgh's Todd Ritchie.

Wes Helms started in his place and to make up for Jones, Brian Jordan and Dave Martinez were moved from fifth and sixth in the lineup to fourth and fifth, respectively. Helms batted seventh.

Jones said he started feeling flu-like symptoms while the Braves were in Florida this week for a series against the Marlins.

"This is just where you go down to Florida where you have 100 percent humidity outside, and you get that air conditioning going full blast and this is what happens," said Jones, who was in the Braves clubhouse wearing a jacket.

He didn't say how long he was going to be out, but said he hoped to return to the lineup today.

Despite missing Friday's game, it was pretty good timing for an illness. The Braves were rained out Wednesday night in Miami and then were off Thursday.

"Nobody wanted these last two days off more than me," Jones said. "I just wish we could have had today rained out too."

While Jones is still the most consistent of the Braves regulars, he has been slumping as of late. He has one hit in his last 16 at-bats and for the season, he is hitting .288 with 12 home runs and 22 RBI.

He said that the slump has been triggered by a bad habit of moving his hands too early in the beginning of his left-handed swing.

"There's fundamentally wrong with my swing. I'll think I hit it right on and it'll be foul," Jones said. "It's almost like putting, you don't put with your hands and your wrist, you putt with your shoulders. It's the same thing. You're supposed to turn with your shoulders when you swing and not with your hands."

The hitch is only there in his left-handed swing. His right-handed swing is unaffected.

"My right-handed swing is totally different," Jones said. "I have a lot less movement and things come easier because it is my natural swing."

Jones doesn't get as many at-bats right-handed, though. This season only 28 of his 156 at-bats have been right handed. He has a higher batting average from the right (.321 vs. .281), but all 12 of his home runs have come from the left side of the plate.

THANK THE SCHEDULE MAKERS: Not only have the Braves won five of their last eight games to move within two games of .500 (22-24), they have two of the National League's worst teams coming to Turner Field.

The Braves started a three-game set with the Pirates Friday night before welcoming Montreal for three games on Monday.

The Pirates are last in the NL Central with a 15-30 record, while the Expos are last in the NL East with a 19-28 mark.

For the Pirates, much of the season went wrong before it started. They lost three of their top pitchers to injuries. Kris Benson is out for the season after undergoing right elbow surgery. Francisco Cordova is rehabbing from right elbow surgery and Jason Schmidt has also just returned from injury and has appeared in three games this season.

Also on the disabled list for the Pirates is their big off-season signee, Derek Bell. Bell has a strained left knee.

Even better news for the Braves is that since the start of the '98 season, the Braves are 11-1 against the Pirates in Atlanta and 19-7 since the beginning of the '95 season.

No current Pirate pitcher has a winning record against the Braves.

FAMILIAR FACE: Terry Mulholland was back in Atlanta for the first time since signing a free agent contract with the Pirates in December.

"I'm happy to be back here," Mulholland said. "I have a lot of friends here, the only thing is I'm not wearing the same uniform."

Mulholland has had a rocky season for the Pirates as the veteran lefty has made just one start this year. Since then, he's made 15 appearances and has a 3.33 ERA, third lowest on the team.

And while things have gotten better for him lately, being scored upon just twice in his last six outings, the team has still struggled. The team has just 15 wins, and only one pitcher - Jimmy Anderson - has more than two wins to his credit.

"It's nothing that any other team hasn't been through, it's just that we've been through it for a longer period than other teams," Mulholland said. "Every team goes through a stretch where we don't have the hitting, or don't have the pitching, or the defense fails. It's just been a combination of all those threes for us.

"You've just got to work through it. You can't give up."