Originally created 06/29/01

Braves notebook



ATLANTA -- When Chipper Jones stepped off the team's charter flightfollowing Wednesday's 10-4 win over the Phillies, the first person hetalked to was his wife, Sharon.

She was upset after hearing ex-closer John Rocker's comments aboutJones during Wednesday's morning show on Atlanta's 96-Rock (WKLS-FM).Rocker called the All-Star third baseman "white trash" and added,"he's never had much respect for me, so I don't have much respect forhim. He's as two-faced as they came. ... I never thought he was mypal."

Jones telephoned Rocker Thursday and they had a 40-minuteconversation, which was very heated for the first 20 minutes.

"We both needed to get some things off our chests," Jones said. During the final 20 minutes, the two talked amiably and buried thehatchet.

Following last Friday's trade, Jones said, "We've held our breathin the ninth inning the last two or three years. That's kind ofunnerving. It's nice not to have to worry about that stuff anymore."

In meeting with reporters before Thursday's game, Jones issued anapology for those comments.

"I'm sorry for any critical comments I've made about John Rockerand I wish him luck with his new team," Jones said. "Hopefully we cango about our business and not talk about each other anymore."

Jones was sorry to hear Tony Gwynn's retirement announcementThursday.

"It's going to be sad to see Tony and Cal (Ripken Jr.) go in thesame year," he said.

Andruw Jones has solid numbers (18 home runs, 53 RBI), but heprobably won't be selected to the NL All-Star team. And, that's OK withhim.

"Too many guys having good years," he said. "I'd have thenumbers to be an All-Star if I was hitting over .300. I'm scoring runsand having some RBI. But I prefer to go home."

Jones has already booked a flight from Boston, where the Bravesfinish the first half, to his native Curacao.

John Smoltz has begun playing catch from 60 feet, but he has notimetable for his return. He went on the disabled list June 10 becauseof elbow and shoulder tendinitis and it might be July, or it could beAugust, before he rejoins the rotation.

"I have no plan," he said. "The last time I had a plan and itdidn't work. I'll let the doctors and my arm dictate how it goes. I'mnot going to do anything that causes stress."

Smoltz threw Wednesday, then again Thursday, and plans to playcatch again today. But he's not throwing hard, he's not on a mound yet,and August seems a likely target for his return.

"I'm not allowing myself to think too far down the road," hesaid.

George Lombard, who underwent surgery on the sesamoid bone in hisright foot last Friday, was back in the clubhouse sporting a walkingcast and crutches. The outfielder, who has been bothered for severalyears by a sore foot, but tried to play through the pain, doesn't planto return this season.

"I'm shooting to be back for winter ball and be full-go for springtraining," he said.

Second baseman Quilvio Veras, who left Wednesday's game with aslightly sprained ankle, was not in Thursday's lineup. Manager BobbyCox also plans to rest him tonight and start Keith Lockhart at second.

Mark DeRosa made his first major league start at second baseThursday.

With Veras out, Rafael Furcal returned to the leadoff spot, and WesHelms batted second for the second time this season.

"I won't change anything," Helms said. "I'm not going to push abunt, I'm going with my same power approach."

Kevin Millwood is looking forward to Saturday's simulated game, thefirst real test of the inflamed labrum in his right shoulder. He plansto work two or three innings, or make 50 pitches, whichever comesfirst.

"I'll be excited Saturday," he said. "Friday night I might notsleep a lot."

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.