MONTREAL -- The novelty of interleague play has worn off, manyplayers say.
But when it comes to a Braves-Yankees matchup at Yankee Stadium,well, the excitement is back.
"Yankee Stadium is one of the few places you look forward topitching at because of the history," said Tom Glavine, who will opposeYankees left-hander Andy Pettitte tonight when the Braves open aweekend series in the Bronx. "There aren't too many ballparks likethat. It's a neat place to play and a neat place to pitch."
"There's something different about it," Greg Maddux said."There's an added excitement there. You have your favorite parks andfor me it's Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium and SanDiego."
Following three games at Yankee Stadium, the Braves play three inToronto, which doesn't quite hold the same allure. That's part of theproblem with interleague play, many players agree. Facing the sameteams every year diminishes play between the two leagues.
The original plan called for a round-robin format of home-and-homeseries against all three divisions, but since its inception in 1997,teams have played only their counterparts in the same division.
"I don't like it the way it is now," John Smoltz said. "Thewhole idea was to create an ability for people to see players they'dnever seen."
"It's always good for us to play the Yankees and Red Sox,"Glavine said, "but beyond that, I don't know. I don't know how muchallure Baltimore or Toronto has. I think interleague play has somequestions. It's not doing what it was sold to people as doing.
"To have interleague play in its fairest sense, you have to rotatedivisions."
Bobby Cox is leaning toward using Bernard Gilkey as the DH tonightagainst Pettitte, and Dave Martinez against right-handers RamiroMendoza and Mike Mussina in the last two games.
"I guess it's like pinch hitting four times," said Martinez,who's played with four American League teams, but has little experienceas a DH.
Martinez is swinging one of the hottest bats on the club, thoughwith B.J. Surhoff's return to the lineup, he's back to getting onepinch hit at-bat per game. But he prepares like he's a regular, hittingwith coach Merv Rettenmund before the game, then swinging for twoinnings inside the cage in preparation for a late-inning at-bat.
"It keeps me in the game," said Martinez, who has 17 hits in hislast 38 at-bats, raising his average to a team-high .368. "I'm not oneto just sit there."
With Quilvio Veras hurting Wednesday night, Keith Lockhart tookover at second base, but his lack of at-bats was apparent in an 0 for 5performance. Lockhart, 0 for 7 on this trip, has only 56 at-bats sofar, which is fewer than rookie Wes Helms.
"Veras has been too hot," Cox said, explaining Lockhart's lack ofplaying time.
Lockhart, who hit .289 as a starter last year, has batted only .176with one RBI when he's been in the lineup this season. Yet, his pinchhitting numbers are vastly improved. He was 1 for 25 off the bench lastyear; he's 5 for 17 this season.
Veras, who sat out with a sore left elbow after being hit with apitch in Tuesday's game, returned to the lineup Thursday.
Damian Moss, out since May 7 with circulatory problems in his leftarm, joined Class AA Greenville in Huntsville today to begin a rehabassignment.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.
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