Originally created 07/30/01

Braves notebook

MONTREAL -- Ken Caminiti admits he contemplated retirement lastweek while he was struggling to hit.

"When this game gets so mentally draining and I beat myself up,yeah, I think about it," the 38-year-old first baseman said. "But I'mnot a quitter. I don't think I came very close (to retiring). When Iwalk away, I walk away because it's my time."

The Braves have taken to Caminiti, who was signed July 5, becauseof the intensity he brings to every game. But he often forgets how torelax.

"When I wasn't driving in runs it was eating me up," he said. "Iwas seeing pitches in my sleep. I've always told myself, I'm toointense and it's hurt me more than it's helped me."

Last week Brian Jordan heard whispers that Caminiti might bethinking about hanging it up, and when the team reached Montreal he andBernard Gilkey took Caminiti out to lunch at a Chinese restaurant andtold him the team was behind him and rooting for him.

"I wanted a chance to talk with him before he made a hastydecision," Jordan said. "I could relate to what he was going through.When I first got here I wanted to make a good impression and get thefans on my side, and I got off to a bad start."

Caminiti says the lunch helped him realize his new teammates caredabout him and were pulling for him to succeed. That knowledge, coupledwith hours spent working on his swing with hitting coach MervRettenmund, who he describes as his "guru", helped him relax at theplate.

In the last few days, he's received phone calls from his parents,former teammates and trainers, all telling him they can't remember thelast time they've seen him smiling so much.

"I'm so much happier inside than I've ever been," Caminiti said."It's easier now. I've been frustrated a lot this year."

A relaxed Caminiti was 7 for 13 against the Expos, with four homeruns and six RBI, boosting his average to .286. Manager Bobby Coxplanned to give him Sunday off, but after his two-homer performanceSaturday, those plans were shelved.

"That's OK," Caminiti shrugged. "I hate days off."

Jordan often criticizes himself for focusing less at the plate whenthere are no runners on base. He's among the best clutch hitters in thegame, but if there isn't a runner to drive in, he's a .275 hitter.

"Every time the game is tied or it's late in the game and we needa hit, I come through," said Jordan, who has hit .298 this season withrunners on base. "But early in the game, with no runners on, nochance. When nobody is out there, I think I have a bigger swing. It'ssomething I've got to get better at."

After a .211 start (8 for 38) this season with runners in scoringposition, Jordan has hit .391 since May 23, boosting his RBI total to66, matching Andruw Jones' total for second-highest on the team.

But after suffering a sprained left knee Sunday, Jordan's hopes ofreaching 100 RBI for the third time in his career may have disappeared.

Second baseman Quilvio Veras took batting practice again Sunday,though his status for Tuesday's opener of a three-game series in St.Louis remains uncertain. He is eligible to be activated from thedisabled list, but the team won't push him for fear of aggravating hisstrained rib cage muscle.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.


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