Originally created 09/05/01

Braves notebook



MONTREAL -- Visa problems prevented prized shortstop prospectWilson Betemit from joining the Braves as scheduled Tuesday.

The Dominican native stayed behind at Class AA Greenville as histeammate, outfielder Cory Aldridge, and Class AAA Richmond pitcher TimSpooneybarger came north for their first taste of the big leagues.

Betemit will join the team Thursday in Chicago.

Spooneybarger, who has the face of a high school freshman and OpieTaylor's aw-shucks expression, expressed surprise at his callup, but heshould have seen it coming. He put up outstanding numbers (3-0, 0.71ERA) at Richmond, and manager Bobby Cox said he was anxious to see himpitch.

Truth to tell, Spooneybarger has already faced big league hitters,sort of. He made it into a spring training game last March against theYankees, worked a scoreless inning, then returned to the minor leaguecomplex.

"I couldn't move," Spooneybarger said, recalling his moment ofglory. "I couldn't swallow. I was shaking."

Spooneybarger, who won't turn 22 until October, wasn't drafted outof high school because of a frayed labrum in his shoulder. He attendeda junior college in Florida, then jumped at the Braves' $70,000 offer,and three years later, here he is in the big leagues.

"My goal was to try and get out of Greenville by the end of theyear," he said. "I've waited so long to get here, I'm not going tolet being nervous affect me."

Spooneybarger might get into more games than Aldridge. The22-year-old outfielder showed good power (19 home runs) at Greenville,but batted just .246. Cox indicated Aldridge will see some action as apinch runner, but probably won't see much time in the outfield.

Rudy Seanez is still trying to figure out how he passed by enoughteams to allow the Braves to claim him on waivers last week. Thereliever had a 2.52 ERA in 27 games with the Padres, and had heldopposing batters to a .170 average. Money? The Braves are responsibleonly for a prorated portion of Seanez's $850,000 contract.

"Puzzling is not the right word," Seanez said. "I would thinkthey would at least say, what have we got to lose? But maybe I'm notwhat they're looking for. Maybe they figure I wouldn't fit it."

Seanez is delighted to be back with the Braves, who didn't make himan offer last winter, fearing it would take him most of the season torecover from last year's Tommy John surgery on his elbow.

It passed unnoticed, but Keith Lockhart's last hit was the 500th ofhis career, which doesn't sound like much, but it's significant whenyou've spent eight years in the minors before playing in a big leaguegame, and you've been a part-time player most of your career.

"It's the only milestone I'm ever going to get," said Lockhart,who has 1,125 hits in the minor leagues.

The Braves have another group of young pitchers on the horizon.Myrtle Beach's Trey Hodges led the Class A Carolina League with 15wins, and was third with a 2.76 ERA. The right-hander also displayedthe sort of command that would make Greg Maddux envious, issuing just18 walks while striking out 139 in 173 innings.

Left-hander Jung Bong was third in the Carolina League with 13wins, and fourth with a 3.00 ERA. He also ranked among league leadersin strikeouts and innings pitched.

Right-hander John Ennis didn't have much of a record (6-8), butfinished with the league's fifth-best strikeout total, whiffing 144 in138 1/3 innings.

And, Adam Wainwright, the club's No. 1 pick last year, broke ClassA Macon's single-season strikeout record, striking out 184 in 164 2/3innings.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.