PITTSBURGH - Eventually, Bobby Cox will exhaust lineup combinations, but it may not happen for several months yet.
For a manager who prefers a set lineup, he has proven remarkably adept at making changes this season. Already, he's used 43 different lineups in 54 games, and the overall look is vastly different than it was to start the season.
"We've probably used more lineups this year than all of last
year," he said.
Cox has been forced into an ever-changing approach because of the mercurial nature of his hitters. With the offense sputtering several weeks ago, he shifted Rafael Furcal from the leadoff spot and finally settled him into the No. 2 spot. Chipper Jones, who has produced five straight 100 RBI seasons as the No. 3 hitter, has taken over at cleanup. Quilvio Veras, who was poking along with a .180 average at No. 8, has hit .339 as the leadoff hitter.
Cox says he discusses the lineup daily with his coaches, and using their input, decides on the order. But settling on the right combination isn't as easy as writing eight names onto a lineup card.
"You try and give guys confidence by moving them up," he said. "Sometimes you need to change it to change the thinking a little bit, maybe even (anger) them a little bit.
"You might call it tinkering, but it's just trying to get the most out of it you can every night."
If the Braves eventually catch the Phillies, they will look back on Cox's decision to shift Veras and Furcal into the 1-2 spots as the key to their resurgence. In the 11 games since they were teamed at the top of the lineup, the Braves are 7-4, and both hitters have come alive.
Furcal has hit .311 (14 for 45) since May 19, his first day at No. 2, and Veras has boosted his batting average from .181 to .242 since becoming the leadoff hitter.
"(Furcal) really did put a lot of pressure on himself," Cox said. "He feels so much better now."
LET'S PLAY TWO: The last thing Tom Glavine wanted was another day off.
But that's what he got Saturday night when the Braves-Pirates game was rained out at PNC Park. It will be made up this afternoon as part of a doubleheader starting at 1:35.
Glavine, who hasn't started since losing 6-3 to the Pirates last Sunday in Atlanta, figures the extra rest will affect his command.
"Typically, if it does anything, I'm a little stronger and my location is off a little bit," he said. "Hopefully that won't be the case and I'll be smart enough not to overthrow."
Glavine will be matched against Pirates right-hander Omar Olivares in Game 1 and John Smoltz will be opposed by left-hander Jimmy Anderson in Game 2.
The two teams waited for more than two hours Saturday night, but after watching a steady rain drench the field, and with the forecast calling for the downpour to continue, the Pirates finally decided to try again today.
As much as players don't like doubleheaders, the Braves were happy a twinbill was scheduled, rather than playing on Monday, a scheduled day off for both teams.
"A doubleheader is fine," manager Bobby Cox said. "It keeps our pitching on schedule, so we're fine."
CHANGING MINDS: John Burkett says he planned to approach the Pirates the same way he did in Atlanta last week, with a lot of fastballs on the outer half of the plate, but changed his mind when he reached the mound Friday night.
"I decided right there, on the spur of the moment, to start working inside," he said. "I probably pitched more inside the first time through the lineup than at any time this season."
By working inside, Burkett opened up the plate, and he took advantage, striking out six and allowing just three hits. It helped that he had command of four pitches and used them effectively, but the key was shifting his strategy.
"A hitter can only cover one side of the plate," he said. "But that was also the best mixture (of pitches) and command that I've had all year. I had confidence in everything. It was a lot of fun."
WAITING FOR ANOTHER CHANCE: Jason Marquis worked in 92 games in the minor leagues, all but three as a starter. It's been just the opposite in his first season in the majors, appearing in 15 games, but making just one start. He admits he's anxious to return to starting duties, but also knows he'll have to wait his turn.
With John Smoltz back, and Odalis Perez settled in as the fifth starter, there's no room in the rotation for Marquis. That's likely to change next year, but it means Marquis will probably be a reliever for the remainder of this season.
"Being a starter is always in the back of my mind," he said. "I know the time is coming, whenever that may be. I'll use this as a stepping stone, learning the hitters and gaining confidence. But the competitive nature inside me never rests. If this is the role they need me in right now, so be it."
Marquis has made a nice adjustment to the bullpen, where he's allowed just 12 hits in 23 2/3 innings, and limited opposing hitters to a staff-low .154 batting average.
MOSS REPORT: Damian Moss threw from a mound Friday and planned to again Saturday in preparation for throwing batting practice Tuesday in Montreal. The left-hander, on the disabled list because of circulatory problems in his left hand and forearm, says he's completely healthy and almost ready to begin a minor league rehab assignment.
"I didn't know what to expect," Moss said. "But when I first started playing catch it felt OK, so I don't think it will pop up again."