ATLANTA -- Since an 8 for 22 start with the Braves, first basemanKen Caminiti has two hits in his last 20 at-bats, but manager Bobby Coxhas no plans to sit him down.
"I don't think he's there yet in his own mind, but I have a lot ofconfidence when he walks up there," Cox said. "He's an imposing guy.He looks like he's going to get a hit."
Perhaps so, but the hits have come infrequently. Caminiti, signedJuly 5, is batting .238 and has knocked in just two runs in 42 at-bats.He's 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
Caminiti acknowledges putting pressure on himself to impress hisnew team. He says he's finally starting to relax at the plate.
"I'm a veteran, but it's still tough to try and not do too much,"he said. "I know I can (hit). I did last year until I got hurt. Can'tdo it anymore? I don't think so. My time is coming. I'm not givingup."
The Braves seem unlikely to make a deal for another first basemanbefore next Tuesday's trading deadline, which means Caminiti, who needsthree RBI to reach 1,000 in his career, figures to be the regular firstbaseman the rest of the way.
"He's really improved at first," Cox said. "All he needs to dois get his stroke going."
Brian Jordan says the team's best lineup is with Andruw Joneshitting third, Chipper Jones in the cleanup spot, and Jordan fifth. Butwith Andruw Jones in the throes of a 13 for 70 (.186) slide, Cox movedhim to No. 6 Sunday, boosted Chipper Jones into his familiar No. 3hole, and promoted Jordan to cleanup.
"I'm no slack at that spot," said Jordan, who hit behind MarkMcGwire during his record 70-home run season in 1998, and behindChipper Jones during his MVP season in 1999. "I've got to performthere, but I've done it all my career."
Jones says he feels more comfortable with Jordan hitting behindhim, rather than Caminiti. He also points out that it's important thata right-handed hitter follow him in the lineup to prevent opposingmanagers from bringing in a left-hander to turn him around from hisdominant left-handed side.
"Nothing against Cammy (Caminiti), but there's a certain comfortzone when the same guy is hitting behind you," Jones said. "It's nocoincidence that B.J. was hitting behind us (McGwire and Jones) when wehad big years. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that B.J. is a clutchplayer. Anybody who is close to this club knows how important he is."
After pitching a three-up, three-down ninth inning Sunday, JohnSmoltz reported no pain in his right elbow or shoulder Monday. The teamis playing his return cautiously and probably won't ask him to pitch inback-to-back games yet, but Smoltz is looking forward to his nextninth-inning assignment.
"That adrenaline is incredible," he said. "When it's the firsttime and you're not expecting it, it's indescribable. You just don'tget that as a starting pitcher."
As for Smoltz working as a closer, that's an idea that's beenfloating around for years. Smoltz isn't likely to take the job fromSteve Karsay now, but if Karsay pitches in consecutive games and needsa break, Smoltz could step into the role.
But there's no plan (yet) to make him the closer this season ornext.
"I close no doors," Smoltz said. "I can't consider being acloser until I go two or three times in a row and I'm able tocontinuously do it."
Marcus Giles, leadoff hitter? Not by anyone's definition, but withRafael Furcal out for the season and Quilvio Veras on the disabledlist, there's no other candidate. So, Giles, who's a more likely No. 6or No. 7 hitter, finds himself at the top of the order.
"They're not expecting me to change my approach," he said."Anywhere I hit in the lineup is good for me."
Giles figures to be the regular second baseman next year, if minorleague shortstop sensation Wilson Betemit doesn't make the team out ofspring training and force Furcal to second base. Certainly Giles hasproven he can hit in the minors, and his defense is vastly improvedfrom where it was several years ago.
But the second baseman who one Braves' scout said would never makeit out of Class A has to continue proving himself.
"I don't know if I have a lot left to prove in the minors, but Ihave a ton to prove in the big leagues," Giles said. "I haven't doneanything yet, and they're giving me a chance right now. The only guy Ican be mad at after this is myself if I don't produce."
Reach Bill Zack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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