ATLANTA - George Lombard knew something was up when Braves manager Bobby Cox summoned him after his turn in the batting cage prior to Wednesday night's game with Detroit.
He was right. Lombard was traded to the Detroit Tigers for right-handed relief pitcher Kris Keller, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right triceps.
"It's a great opportunity to play, I'm excited," Lombard said. "I'm finally healthy. I'm ready to show what I can do."
In reality, the Braves had little choice but to find the former Lovett High star a new home.
The 26-year-old Lombard was out of minor league options, and Atlanta would have had to either add him to its 25-man roster, place him on waivers where he likely would have been claimed by another team, or trade him to get someone in return.
General manager John Schuerholz said the decision to choose the latter was actually an easy one to make.
"It was hard in one sense but easy in another because George is a fine young man. He's got excellent tools and abilities, plus he's been in professional baseball an awfully long time," Schuerholz said. "But it just wasn't going to happen here. He wasn't going to play for us, and he's the kind of guy who needs to play every day."
Lombard, who later took batting practice with his new team, agreed that the deal was in the best interest of al parties concerned.
"It didn't surprise me at all," he said. "The team is playing well, and they have a set outfield with Chipper (Jones), Andruw (Jones) and Gary (Sheffield). They're going to be here for a couple of more years still. There wasn't going to be any spot for me."
To make room for Lombard, the Tigers designated first baseman/outfielder Ryan Jackson for assignment.
Lombard had missed the first 2 1/2 months of the season with a strained right calf suffered in an exhibition game March 12. During his recent rehabilitation stint, the former Georgia football signee batted .308 with a home run and five RBI at AAA Richmond, and .280 with three home runs and five RBI in eight games at AA Greenville.
Keller, 24, was the Tigers' fourth-round pick in the 1996 June draft. He appeared in one game, allowing three runs in one inning on May 24 against the Chicago White Sox. Before getting called up, the 6-foot-2, 260-pounder was 2-0 with a 2.08 earned run average in 17 games at AAA Toledo with 20 strikeouts in 26 innings.
According to Schuerholz, the Braves will evaluate Keller over the next several days while he continues to recover before deciding where to assign him.
"We've got good reports on the guy and we think he's got the chance to give us another real power arm," Schuerholz. "As we've learned over the years, you can never have enough good arms."
DeROSA CLEARED: Team doctors gave infielder Mark DeRosa the green light to begin full workouts as he battles back from the ankle injury which landed him on the 15-day disabled list May 18.
"It's good news," said DeRosa, who tore tissues in his right ankle and was forced to wear a protective boot until last week. "I'm ready to get back."
However, that may not be for another week.
While DeRosa has been cleared to resume practicing, the Braves will want to send him on a rehab assignment to either AAA Richmond or AA Greenville.
"Right now I feel great," DeRosa said. "I'm not going to back off of anything."
CASTILLA STILL NOT READY: Vinny Castilla sat out his second straight game Wednesday with a sore right hamstring.
The third baseman had hoped to start the team's second contest against the Tigers, but felt it best to give the injury one more day of rest.
"It's a lot better," Castilla said. "But there's no reason to rush it. I'm hoping one more day will be enough."
Castilla did take batting practice and did some light running prior to the game. Wes Helms started in his place for the second night in a row.
AROUND THE DIAMOND: Detroit starter Mike Maroth was a huge Braves fan growing up. "I have every Dale Murphy baseball card ever made," he said. The Orlando, Fla. native beat Arizona and Curt Schilling 6-3 in his big league debut Friday. ... The Braves, who dropped a 6-1 decision to Boston Sunday, entered Wednesday's contest having been held to one run over two games for the first time since last August 10-11.
GILES' DAUGHTER DIES: Lundyn Mae Giles, the infant daughter of Atlanta Braves second baseman Marcus Giles, died Wednesday at Northside Hospital, according to team spokesman Jim Schultz.
Born three months premature on June 3, Giles' baby weighed just over one pound when she was born.
Marcus Giles, on the 15-day disabled list since May 29 with a severely sprained right ankle, was not at Wednesday night's game. He called to inform the team of his daughter's death during the fifth inning of the Braves' 4-1 victory over Detroit.
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