Originally created 04/02/02

Braves notebook

ATLANTA -- Greg Maddux says it's a pain to pitch right now.

The four-time Cy Young winner, who was scratched from Monday afternoon's opening day start because of a strained hip, hopes to return to the mound Sunday.

"If I move the wrong way, it starts to hurt," Maddux said. "I could sit here for two hours and not have anything wrong, then it will start to ache."

Maddux suffered the injury while making an off-balance throw during a start against the Astros two weeks ago. He was hammered in his next outing (7 earned runs) by the Indians, then made just 10 pitches against a minor league team in his final spring start.

Maddux, who also missed his opening day assignment last April because of a sore toe, won't know until he throws in the bullpen Thursday whether he can return to the mound Sunday afternoon against the Mets. ...

Tim Spooneybarger was the first reliever out of the bullpen, an indication that manager Bobby Cox plans to use the rookie extensively in a setup role this year.

"I hope so," Spooneybarger said. "I'm down there with guys who have proven themselves and I just want to make a name for myself. It made me feel good they called my name on opening day."

Spooneybarger's knees were wobbling when he reached the mound and he was fortunate to escape unscathed, pinch hitter Ricky Ledee's drive falling into center fielder Andruw Jones' glove at the wall with two runners on base.

"That first inning I couldn't swallow my mouth was so dry," he said. "I was just throwing, instead of trusting myself. I'm glad that ball stayed in the park because that's not the way you want to start the year." ...

Chipper Jones thinks the three walks he accepted from Phillies starter Robert Person were more fluke than fate.

"In my wildest dreams, I couldn't imagine they would do that with Gary Sheffield and Vinny Castilla coming up behind me," said Jones, who also had a single and scored two runs. "I felt like (Person) was trying to come in a lot, but was just missing with his location."

Person paid dearly for two of the three walks. In the third inning, Sheffield followed by reaching base on third baseman Scott Rolen's error, and Castilla crushed a home run into the left field seats, then Sheffield delivered another home run following a free pass to Jones in the fifth. ...

John Smoltz pitched a three-up, three-down ninth inning, striking out two, but was more pleased with his likeness on the bobblehead doll given to fans entering the stadium.

"Nice hair," said Smoltz, whose hair is thinning. "Looks real good."

Smoltz, who normally wouldn't be called into a 7-2 game, says he's not interested in how many saves he accumulates, just how many wins the team compiles.

"I'm not really concerned with statistics," he said. "I'm interested in closing games out. I'll take a lot of those because it means we're winning." ...

Cox plans to talk with Wes Helms and Julio Franco during this morning's optional workout or before Wednesday night's game and explain his plans for sharing first base this season. B.J. Surhoff, who hit .423 this spring, drew the opening day start and had two hits, but Cox indicated the trio would receive equal playing time.

"I'm still going to play a lot of people there," Cox said.

Helms, who led the team in walks (12) and strikeouts (22) this spring, is anxious to know where he stands.

"I want to win a World Series," he said. "If that means they feel B.J. or Julio should play full-time and me part-time, that's fine. I have no hard feelings and no negativity. I'll be ready for whatever Bobby wants."


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