MIAMI -- The Braves aren't completely convinced Greg Maddux will beable to make Thursday's start, but the four-time Cy Young winner iscertain he'll be on the mound against the Marlins.
Maddux, who left Saturday's start with a hyperextended right elbow,planned to just play catch before making the start. But he changed hismind Monday because his elbow felt good, throwing for 10 minutes in thebullpen under the watchful eye of pitching coach Leo Mazzone.
"I threw a normal side session," Maddux said. "I threw good andI felt fine. I'm looking forward to pitching the last day here."
The backup plan in case Maddux can't pitch is Odalis Perez. ManagerBobby Cox said he would give Perez the start if Maddux indicated anyproblem with his elbow.
"I'm not going to ruin him, that's for sure," Cox said.
Maddux has been receiving ultrasound treatments and electricalstimulation on his elbow and said Monday it was greatly improved.
"I think it was a freak thing," he said. "It concerns you, butthere's nothing you can do about it."
John Smoltz figures after taking Monday off following Sunday'sthree-inning outing, he'll be ready to resume closing duties tonight.
"At this point, we're in a situation where we're in a pretty goodpennant race, so I should be available for most of the games from thispoint on," he said. "I thought I'd be a little more sore than normaland I'm not."
Smoltz made 34 pitches in limiting the Mets to one hit, mixing 96m.p.h. fastballs and a new and improved slider. He's changed grips onhis slider to reduce the stress on his elbow, holding the balloff-center, and has found the same late action and downward movementthat made it one of the most formidable weapons in his arsenal duringhis days as a starter.
"It's close to the way it was," he said. "I throw it less with ahard manipulation of my arm, and more with my body. I'm finding theonly difference is every five days as a starter it had a chance to be agreat slider, and three days in a row the sharpness varies."
Remember Kurt Abbott? The veteran infielder, a resident of nearbyDavie, Fla., visited the clubhouse before Monday's game and revealed heunderwent abdominal surgery nearly two weeks ago. Abbott, who underwenthernia surgery in June, visited a specialist several weeks ago and thecause of his pain was finally discovered to be an abdominal muscle tornaway from the bone.
"That's why I had a problem for four months," Abbott said. "Fivemonths later I finally see a specialist and five and a half monthslater I have surgery to correct a problem that was there all along. IfI didn't have this done, my career would be over."
As it stands, it's been a lost season for Abbott, who played inonly six games before injuries sidelined him. He plans to play nextseason, but probably not with the Braves.
"Do I think I'll be back here?" Abbott said. "Absolutely,positively not. Not because I don't want to be, but because I don'tthink they want me back."
Doctors have told Abbott it will take three months to recover fromhis latest surgery. He should be ready for spring training, though thatdoesn't do much to satisfy his hunger to play baseball now.
"I'm frustrated every time I watch this team play on TV," hesaid.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.