Originally created 07/01/03

Braves notebook



MIAMI - The news that Paul Byrd will undergo ligament-replacement surgery today on his right elbow and be lost for at least a year barely caused a ripple in the visitors clubhouse Monday afternoon.

After all, three pitchers on the Braves staff - Horacio Ramirez, John Smoltz and Darren Holmes - have undergone the same "Tommy John" procedure.

"I know most of the things that (Byrd) is thinking," Ramirez said. "Am I going to come back? Am I going to be the same? It's a tough thing to go through."

Monday's MRI of the 32-year-old Byrd's elbow revealed a tear in his medial collateral ligament. After examining the MRI, team doctor Joe Chandler and orthopedist Dr. James Andrews agreed that ligament-replacement surgery was necessary. Dr. Andrews will perform the procedure today.

Byrd, who signed a free agent deal last winter that pays him $3 million this season and includes his option at $7 million next year, can begin light throwing in about three months. The Braves hope he can return after next year's All-Star break.

"I sure would have like to have seen him pitch coming off a great year," manager Bobby Cox said.

Byrd, who won 17 games for the Royals last season, experienced pain in his elbow during his first spring training start in March. He underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow on April 11 and hoped to return before the All-Star break. His recovery seemed to be progressing smoothly, but after throwing a simulated game last week in Atlanta, he felt pain on the side of his elbow.

GOOD AND BAD: Mike Hampton will go to the mound tonight against one of his favorite opponents. He is 8-1 lifetime against the Marlins and only owns more wins against the Cardinals (10-7) and Giants (13-4).

But he is winless in his last two starts, and lasted just five innings in an 8-1 loss to the Phillies last Thursday in Atlanta, despite having "electric stuff," according to Cox.

Hampton said he is closer to being the pitcher who won 37 games in back-to-back seasons with the Astros and Mets before spending two forgettable years in Denver.

"I have a lot more confidence now than I did in the past," he said. "Back then, there was no thought except getting people out and winning games. I'm not there yet."

ETC: Chipper Jones entered Monday night's game needing one hit for 1,500 in his career. He needs four to pass Tommy Holmes for ninth place in franchise history. ... With his 29th save Sunday, John Smoltz moved past Tom Glavine into fifth place in franchise history and third in Atlanta history with 506 games. ... Robert Fick has quietly upped his batting average to .310 by hitting in 20 of his last 24 games at a .354 clip. His .364 average with runners in scoring position is the club's best. ... Gary Sheffield is mired in his worst stretch of the season with just two hits in his last 22 at-bats. Still, he ranks among the league's top 10 offensive leaders in 13 categories. ... Julio Franco, who has hit safely in 17 of his 19 starts this season, was in the lineup Monday night with Marlins left-hander Mark Redman on the mound. Cox indicated Franco will also start Wednesday night against Marlins rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.