Originally created 06/29/02

Sore hamstring hampers Sheffield



BOSTON - Gary Sheffield's left hamstring is sore, so he might fill the designated hitter role all weekend against the Boston Red Sox.

"I don't like it, but when you have injuries, you learn to accept it," he said. "You feel more involved in the game when you play. Obviously, I can play in the field if I have to, but it's better to be safe than sorry."

Sheffield was the DH June 7-8 in Texas, and was 0-for-5 the first night, and 4-for-5 the next day. He credits Greg Maddux with helping him prepare the second game. Maddux threw to him twice in the batting cage before his at-bats, and Sheffield says it made a significant difference.

"You try and stay warm and get a sweat going so you don't go into the box cold," Sheffield said.

Sheffield had a home run and a double before rain wiped out Thursday night's game, his two best swings in a couple of weeks. He says that's a result of the soreness in his wrist disappearing, allowing him extra time in the batting cage to iron out his mechanics.

"I've been working on some things," he said. "When I'm able to get extra work in, you'll see some better results. I feel like I'm getting in tune with myself. I always put pressure on myself to put up monster numbers, and when I don't, I try to compensate and get into bad habits."

And Sheffield's elbow pad? He dismissed the controversy on Friday, saying, "I don't need arm guards to hit, and I don't need batting gloves either. You just do it for blisters and to protect yourself."

Then, in an obvious reference to New York Mets general manager Steve Phillips, who asked major league baseball officials to measure his elbow pad, Sheffield said, "There's no crying in baseball."

NOT SO SWIFT: Diamonds on the soles of his shoes, or carbon dust?

Rafael Furcal is eighth in the league with 15 steals, but also leads the major leagues with 11 caught stealings. Some of those are failed hit-and-runs, but the leadoff man shrugged at his double-digit total.

"I can finish with 40 (steals)," he said. "I know everybody now. I know who has a slide step, who's slow to home, and who's quick to home."

ALL-STAR CRUNCH: If All-Star selections were up to him, manager Bobby Cox would add Tom Glavine, Andruw Jones, Sheffield, Chipper Jones, Rafael Furcal, Mike Remlinger, Chris Hammond, and John Smoltz to the National League team. It's not his choice this year, of course, but the lack of Braves among top vote-getters is startling.

No Brave will be voted as a starter, leaving it up to NL manager Bob Brenly to add Glavine and perhaps Smoltz to the pitching staff, and probably one of the Joneses as an extra outfield.

There's a legitimate case to be made for several relievers. Smoltz has the second-most saves in the major leagues, while Remlinger has a 1.70 ERA, and Hammond is 6-2 with a 1.59 ERA. But historically managers don't take middle relievers or setup men, preferring to name starters and closers to the staff.

The Braves had only two All-Stars (John Burkett & Chipper Jones) last year, and they haven't had less than two since Glavine was their lone representative in 1991.

BLINK OF AN EYE: His right eye red and swollen, Smoltz went to a New York hospital before Thursday night's game to have it treated. But by the time he arrived, he had apparently blinked away the foreign object that was causing his discomfort, and he reported to the clubhouse Friday with his vision restored.

"I couldn't open my eye for an hour and a half," he said.

AROUND THE DIAMOND: Mark DeRosa and Marcus Giles reported to Class AAA Richmond on Friday to begin rehab assignments. Cox said the pair will play a variety of positions, which is nothing new for DeRosa, but breaking new ground for Giles. Cox indicated Giles might play third base and the outfield, as well as second base. ... An MRI of pitcher Albie Lopez's right shoulder in Atlanta on Friday confirmed tendinitis. He was placed on the disabled list Thursday, and probably won't return until late July, at the earliest.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.