Originally created 03/29/03

Gryboski knows his role this year



ATLANTA - Atlanta pitcher Kevin Gryboski sat in front of his locker Friday afternoon, a few hours before the Braves' exhibition with the Boston Red Sox, flipping through a magazine.

He looked relaxed, content his spot on Monday's Opening Day roster was solidified.

It was, the middle reliever said, a big contrast from this time last season - the day before Atlanta trims its roster to 25.

"Last year, I figured I had a 50-50 chance to make it," Gryboski said. "I thought it could go either way."

For Gryboski, it went the wrong way, and, despite posting solid numbers and three saves in spring training, he was optioned to Class AAA Richmond before the season opener. That won't happen today.

"This year, I know my role a little bit better," said Gryboski, who collected a save while posting a 1.13 ERA and recording eight strikeouts in eight innings this spring. "I'm looking forward to starting the season knowing that I'll be here."

Although Gryboski didn't make the 25-man roster last season, he was solid when he returned to the majors.

After he was recalled to Atlanta, he allowed two earned runs in his first 19 games (22 innings pitched, 0.82 ERA). He struggled as the season wore on, allowing 14 earned runs in the final 21 contests sandwiched around a return trip to Richmond.

But that's in the past. For now, Gryboski should be a mainstay at Turner Field.

"Nobody is really happy to be sent down," Gryboski said. "But I had some stuff I needed to work on last year, so I went down there and did what I had to do. I wanted to be back here."

WEIRD WITHOUT GLAVINE: By now, Marcus Giles is used to his absence. And if former Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Kevin Millwood are out of sight, they're also out of Giles' mind.

"Everybody has melted together from the situation just fine," Atlanta's second baseman said. "We've filled those spots with some good people. They're guys that will be missed, and they contributed a lot to our success. But we can't think about them anymore."

Braves ace Greg Maddux said it was strange not seeing his two long-time counterparts in the clubhouse.

"It's weird, and it's different," he said. "Every year, we have new guys on the team, and this year, we have our share of new guys. But it's still a little different."

BYRD PITCHES AGAIN: Although Paul Byrd was placed on the disabled list retroactive to March 21, he pitched three innings in Florida on Friday.

Byrd, who struck out three and allowed three hits and two runs in three innings, will rejoin the team in time for Monday's opener against Montreal and then travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to throw four or five innings against Charleston, Tampa Bay's Class A South Atlantic League affiliate.

He is eligible to rejoin the Atlanta roster April 5.

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216. or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com