Originally created 05/06/02

Braves notebook



ST. LOUIS - The lineup change was more cosmetic than significant, but cleanup hitter Gary Sheffield welcomed it anyway.

In the latest effort to warm up Sheffield's bat, manager Bobby Cox swapped No. 3 hitter Chipper Jones and Sheffield on Sunday.

"I've hit No. 3 all my life," said Sheffield, who responded with three hits, drove home a run, and scored one in a 4-2 win over the Cardinals. "That's where I've had my most success. I became accustomed to hitting in the first inning. It's a mindset. I was programmed that way."

Cox acknowledged the change made little difference, and Jones described it as "insignificant." But Sheffield feels more comfortable knowing he'll hit in the first inning, and at this point, with Sheffield batting .207 and without an RBI since April 13, Cox is willing to experiment.

"We're just trying to get him going, period," Cox said. "Just trying to change something, get a different look. Maybe it will have an effect. I hope it does. We certainly need Gary to get going."

Jones, who has also batted No. 3 throughout his career, shrugged at the change.

"It might get Sheff a fastball or two," he said, "but I still think (pitchers) are going to pitch around him. He's seeing an awful lot of junk right now."

The response to breaking pitches off the plate and in the dirt is to not swing, but Sheffield has been overanxious at the plate and getting himself out. He has just nine walks in 87 at-bats, while Jones has 21 walks in 120 at-bats.

TAKING A STEP BACK: The experiment to change Albie Lopez into a down-and-away fastball pitcher has officially ended. Cox said Sunday the right-hander should forget about following pitching coach Leo Mazzone's formula and return to his former style.

"I think we're going to have to accept the fact that he's a high-ball, fastball pitcher," Cox said. "He's always been a high-ball pitcher. We've tried to get him down, but he's pretty effective up."

Lopez, who pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up three runs in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Cardinals, probably won't make another start. Damian Moss has won a spot in the rotation, and with Jason Marquis returning Saturday, Lopez will go to the bullpen.

"He's had some of his best years in the bullpen," Cox said.

Lopez hasn't been effective as a starter this season. The opposition is batting .350 against him in three starts, he hasn't lasted six innings in any of his outings, and he's lost all three games.

READY TO RETURN: Marquis pitched well in a rehab start at Class AAA Richmond on Saturday night, working five innings and giving up two runs on five hits in a 2-1 loss to Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He walked one and had six strikeouts.

"My arm was right where I want it to be," Marquis told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "It's healthy and ready to go. I accomplished other things other than feeling good. I located my fastball and kept the ball down. I'm not sure what they got me on the gun, but it felt good coming out of my hand. That's all that mattered to me."

Marquis threw 75 pitches, 53 for strikes.

"He looks like he's ready to go help them win a pennant," R-Braves pitching coach Guy Hansen said. "He was throwing free and easy and not manipulating his delivery at all."

GLAVINE INFLUENCE: When Moss goes to the mound Thursday night against the Dodgers, he plans to follow Tom Glavine's example and work more inside. He says he made just two pitches on the inner half of the plate in Friday night's 2-1 win over the Cardinals, and Glavine is urging him to go in there more often.

"If word starts getting around that I pitch a lot like Glavine, mostly on the outside corner, they'll start shooting me to right field," Moss said. "Pitching inside is the biggest thing Glav and I talk about. He tells me I'm not doing it enough, so I'm going to do it more."

ETC: The Braves are experiencing the same production problem at first base they faced last year. While the league's first basemen are batting a collective .250 and averaging three home runs and 16 RBI, the trio of Julio Franco, Wes Helms, and the injured B.J. Surhoff have hit a combined .239 with two home runs and eight RBI. ... By the way, Moss hasn't allowed a hit over his last nine innings in two starts. And he's limited opposing batters to a league-low .150 average. ... After a sizzling homestand (.359, 4 HR, 8 RBI), Andruw Jones has cooled off. Before collecting a pair of hits Sunday, he was 3 for 18 in the first five games of the trip and had failed to knock in a run.