Originally created 05/11/02

Marquis shoulders the blame



ATLANTA - Although Jason Marquis admits the 129 pitches he threw against the Florida Marlins right before going on the 15-day disabled list did not help his already aching right elbow, the second-year player on Friday refused to blame manager Bobby Cox for not taking him out of the contest earlier.

"No, no, no, my elbow was bothering me well before that," said Marquis, who will be activated in time to start tonight's 7:05 contest against the San Diego Padres. "It was something that had been lingering for a while. There's no one to blame for that but myself."

During that April 14 start, Marquis surrendered seven earned runs to the Marlins on 11 hits with three walks in just six innings before he was finally taken out of the game. The Braves lost 7-0.

Eight days later, Marquis, who is 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA, was placed on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right elbow. He made a rehabilitation start last Saturday with Triple-A Richmond against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The New York native took a 2-1 loss, but pitched extremely well, giving up the two runs on five hits with six strikeouts in five innings.

"I came out of it pain free, and that was the big thing," Marquis said. "I think I'm ready go."

The question now is whose spot will Marquis take on the roster.

Cox said prior to Friday night's contest the team won't make that decision until after the game or sometime this morning, although it's expected the Braves will choose between the trio of Kevin Gryboski, Kerry Ligtenberg or Tim Spooneybarger.

Of the three, Gryboski (0-1, 0.73) has been the most impressive, having given up just one earned run in 12 1/3 innings. Lightenberg has a respectable 3.07 ERA, but he's walked 15 batters in 14 2/3 innings. Spooneybarger has also been inconsistent despite a 3.50 ERA.

MOSS TAKES WIN IN STRIDE: Rookie Damian Moss didn't throw any post-game party to celebrate his first major-league win Thursday night.

Not that he wasn't happy about it.

"Sure, it's special," said Moss, a native of Darlinghurst, Australia, and now calls Dublin, Ga. home. "But I'd still like to win about 250 more."

Moss went eight innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers, scattering three hits over eight innings with one walk and three strikeouts. He took over the National League lead in opponents batting average against to .160 (19-for-119).

"Some buddies of mine from Australia e-mailed me this morning, they said they had watched it on the Internet," Moss said. "Hopefully, they'll get to see me a lot more."

BULLPEN IMPROVING: After struggling for much of April, Atlanta's bullpen has quietly begun living up to pitching coach Leo Mazzone's expectations.

In the last nine games, the bullpen's ERA is a sparkling 1.10 - four earned runs in 32 2/3 innings.

"We've got some guys in good grooves right now," Mazzone said. "Everybody's sort of found their niche and they're succeeding in their roles."

Not counting John Smoltz's 5.03, the highest ERA for a Braves reliever is Spooneybarger.

AROUND THE DIAMOND: Cox shook up his lineup for Friday's first game against San Diego, inserting first baseman Julio Franco into the second spot while dropping Marcus Giles down to seventh. ... The Braves continue to fail miserably with runners in scoring position, batting a paltry .216 (16-for-283), a mark which ranks next-to-last in the National League just in front of Cincinnati's .208. The league's average with runners in scoring position is .245. ... Atlanta has scored 60 of its 127 runs (47 percent) in the first three innings. ... Prior to facing former Augusta GreenJacket and San Diego rookie Dennis Tankersley, the Braves had gone 6-4 with two no decisions in their last dozen games against pitchers making their big league debut. In seven of those contests, Atlanta had been held to two or fewer earned runs.