Originally created 03/28/04

Reitsma turning heads in bullpen



LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Leo Mazzone beat the rest of the Braves to the 'Wow' with Chris Reitsma.

That was the pitching coach's reaction after watching the team's newest reliever throw fastballs and changeups for 10 minutes in the bullpen Saturday.

"I liked his fastball," Mazzone said. "Lots of life. He had a good changeup. And he has a good delivery and good makeup. I like everything about him."

Reitsma, acquired from Cincinnati on Friday for pitchers Jung Bong and Bubba Nelson, drove up from the Reds' spring training camp in Sarasota on Saturday morning. He introduced himself to his new teammates, donned a uniform, and headed for the bullpen.

"It's been kind of a crazy 24 hours," he said. "(The trade) was a shock to me. It's real hard leaving. Your baseball team is kind of like your second family. Some tears were shed."

Reitsma, 26, is expected to be the setup man in front of closer John Smoltz, assuming a role that Antonio Alfonseca and his 10.13 ERA lost this spring. Reitsma, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound right-hander, has found a niche in the bullpen after spending his first two years in the majors working primarily as a starter.

Reitsma's fastball is consistently in the mid-90s, but it's his changeup that Chipper Jones remembered from facing him in the past.

"He's got a real good one," Jones said. "One of the better ones around."

GETTING BETTER: This has not been Russ Ortiz's finest spring, but the scheduled Opening Day starter turned in his best effort in Saturday's 6-4 win over the New York Mets, pitching five shutout innings and allowing just two hits.

"I don't feel I got pounded (this spring)," said Ortiz, who entered the game with an 0-3 record and 8.36 ERA. "Every game I have made good quality pitches. Numbers here really don't mean a lot. Having a bad spring has no bearing on having a good season."

Ortiz, who will face the Mets April 6 at Turner Field, has struggled with his command this spring, walking nine in 19 innings. He issued four walks to the Mets, and hit two batters.

"Everybody wants to pitch backward in spring training," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "You may give up some runs, but you don't give away your secrets."

DEBUT: Juan Cruz, acquired Thursday from the Chicago Cubs, made a so-so debut with the Braves. He followed Ortiz and allowed a run on two hits in the sixth, then ended on a good note, inducing Joe McEwing to roll into an inning-ending double play. He then gave up three straight hits to open the seventh. He pitched two innings and gave up three runs on five hits and a walk .

SHORT HOPS: Infielder Jorge Velandia is sidelined with a staph infection in his right knee and isn't expected back for at least two more days. ... Chipper Jones hit his first home run of the spring, launching a 400-foot drive over the home bullpen in the third inning against Mets starter Scott Erickson. ... Kevin Gryboski took a giant step toward proving his right shoulder is healthy, making his second appearance in three days and working a perfect eighth inning.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com



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