Originally created 07/13/01

Braves notebook

ATLANTA -- The Great Ken Caminiti First Base Experiment hasofficially begun.

After two early afternoon workouts in Boston to acquaint the formerGold Glove third baseman with his new position, Caminiti was inThursday night's lineup at first base.

"I wouldn't think it's that tough," Caminiti said of movingacross the infield.

Wes Helms has made the move look easy this season, but as managerBobby Cox pointed out, he had winter ball and spring training toprepare. Caminiti is doing it on the fly, and the Braves really don'tknow what to expect, though they're willing to give him some time tokeep his bat in the lineup.

"Just trying to see what he looks like over there," Cox said."He's never really been over there before. I wish we had more time,but he did the best he could in Boston."

The move wouldn't be necessary if a platoon of Helms and RicoBrogna was producing decent numbers at first, but the pair havecombined for a .232 average and just 32 RBI.

Caminiti worked out at first during Thursday's batting practice,but it will take more than pregame ground balls and throws to secondbase to adjust to a new position, third baseman Chipper Jones said. `I would think it would be kind of difficult," Jones said. "He'sspent his whole career on one side of the field. Now the ball is goingto curve the other way. He's a good player, we'll see how easy he makesthe adjustment."

John Smoltz, reliever? The right-hander, on the disabled list whilehe recovers from shoulder and elbow inflammation, said Thursday hewants to work from the bullpen when he returns next month.

"I'm not going to be a seven- to nine-inning guy this year," hesaid. "I'd like to work my way into shape. I think I could beeffective along the way."

During the All-Star break, Smoltz vacationed with his family, andformer Braves catcher Greg Olson, at Sea Island, Ga. The pair went to alocal baseball field and Smoltz threw from a mound three times, awarmup for Thursday's 10-minute session with pitching coach Leo Mazzonein the bullpen.

"I'm not going to get carried away with a timeline right now,"Smoltz said. "I can't be concerned with what I can do yet, but I'mgetting closer to finding out."

Smoltz is hopeful of facing hitters during batting practiceSaturday, but no plans have been made yet for him to begin a rehabassignment.

"I can't look at it like I've got to salvage something (of theseason)," he said. "For me, there's still a lot of time left."

Kevin Millwood will have a 90-pitch limit when he makes his thirdrehab start Saturday with Class AA Greenville in Chattanooga. Theright-hander, who has been on the disabled list since May 7 with aninflamed labrum, hopes to rejoin the rotation July 20 against theExpos.

"After I pitch and in between starts, my shoulder is stillstrong," he said. "I'm staying strong and that's the main thing." In his last rehab start Monday, Millwood went four innings andallowed two runs against Class AA Huntsville.

Second baseman Quilvio Veras was late arriving Thursday because ofa mechanical problem with the flight he was on from the DominicanRepublic. The problem caused him to miss his connection in Miami, andhe was scratched from the lineup. Keith Lockhart replaced him at secondand batted leadoff.

Veras was expected to arrive during the game.

The Braves are speeding switch-hitting shortstop Wilson Betemitthrough the minors. In a move that parallels Andruw Jones' rapid ascentto the majors in 1996, the team's top prospect was promoted from ClassA Myrtle Beach to Greenville Thursday.

Betemit's .281 batting average was ninth-best in the CarolinaLeague and his 88 hits placed him fourth. He was selected to theleague's All-Star team, and last Sunday in the Futures Game in Seattle,he was 2 for 3 with a home run.

Betemit, who won't turn 20 until November, played in 84 games atMyrtle Beach. Jones played in 66 games at Class A Durham before joiningGreenville for 38 games. Betemit probably won't move quite as quickly,but if Mark DeRosa can't handle shortstop for the Braves, Betemit mightbe an alternative.

The Braves transferred shortstop Rafael Furcal from the 15-day tothe 60-day disabled list Thursday and outrighted pitcher Chris Seelbachto Class AAA Richmond. Seelbach has 72 hours to accept the assignmentor become a free agent.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.


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