JUPITER, Fla. - Atlanta manager Bobby Cox was trying to put a positive spin on the bullpen, but even he couldn't dodge the obvious following Monday's 7-6 loss to the Cardinals.
Antonio Alfonseca inherited a 5-3 lead in the seventh, but three hits and three walks later, the Cards led 7-5, igniting more speculation about an unimpressive relief corps.
With three weeks to go before opening day, the bullpen picture is no clearer now than it was on the first day of camp.
Cox has been impressed by 23-year-old Jose Capellan, whose fastball has been clocked at 100 miles per hour, but the youngster has struggled with his command, walking four in six innings.
Roman Colon, who won 11 games at Class AA Greenville last year and 29-year-old righthander Ryan Glynn have also caught Cox's eye, but the manager is unlikely to carry more than two rookies in a seven-man bullpen.
Cox is more likely to choose proven relievers, even if they don't put up impressive spring numbers. That means Alfonseca and lefty Armando Almanza will have jobs, while the jury remains out on Will Cunnane, Trey Hodges, Chuck Smith, and Jung Bong.
CARDINALS: Right-hander Woody Williams threw 34 pitches in his second simulated game Monday and probably will start Thursday and pitch one inning against the Expos. Williams, an 18-game winner last year, raised the intensity from his simulated game three days earlier and faced hitters for the third time overall. He has been bothered by tendinitis in his shoulder since before spring training.
"All in all, I'm getting there," Williams said.
Rangers: Reliever Jeff Zimmerman has a golf ball-sized knot on the inside of his right elbow, the latest setback in his bid to find the form that made him an All-Star as a rookie in 1999.
Zimmerman last pitched in the major leagues in October 2001 and has had two reconstructive operations on his pitching elbow. It locked up again Sunday during a "B" game against Seattle.
He won his first nine major league decisions and had 28 saves in 2003, sixth-best in the AL.
Padres: Slugger Phil Nevin is at least inching closer to getting back into uniform after straining his left shoulder diving for a ball at first base in a spring game on March 7. He's out of the sling that helped immobilize the shoulder, and he began rehabilitation Monday afternoon at a Tempe clinic.
l Reliever Rod Beck will be out indefinitely while he deals with personal problems and probably won't be ready for opening day. Beck hasn't been in camp for several days.
The last time anyone with the team spoke to him was Wednesday.