Originally created 04/01/04

Braves look to Wise up



LAKELAND, Fla. - The Atlanta Braves roster started to take shape Wednesday when outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. was released, clearing the way for non-roster invitee Dewayne Wise to make the team.

"Oh man, I thought I had no chance," said the left-handed-hitting Wise, who has batted .333 this spring, stolen two bases, and made several outstanding catches.

"My agent told me it would be a miracle - you'll have to hit .500 or something to make the team. I've always wanted to be an Atlanta Brave, even as a little kid."

Wise, 26, has spent parts of two seasons with the Blue Jays, appearing in 70 games and batting .172. The Braves like his speed and his defensive prowess, and envision him as a late-inning defensive replacement, pinch hitter and pinch runner.

"He can run, he's got energy, and he's done everything we've asked him to do," general manager John Schuerholz said.

Matthews Jr., meanwhile, had a horrible spring. He batted .154, had 17 strikeouts in 52 at-bats, and with the exception of a game or two, gave the team no reason to keep him. By releasing him at the deadline, the club had to pay just $200,000 of Matthews' $800,000 contract.

ROugh spring: Juan Cruz struggled through a two-hit, one-run outing Tuesday and a trip to Richmond to start the season remains a possibility. By sending the reliever, the team could keep Trey Hodges, who has posted a 1.59 ERA this spring.

Cruz has given up 14 runs on 22 hits in 91/3 innings with the Cubs and the Braves.

"I don't think he threw as good today," Cox said. "He gave up three hard-hit balls. But he's fine. He's got great stuff."

AROUND THE HORN: Horacio Ramirez, scheduled to open the series against the Cubs on April 9 , will face a minor league team Sunday at Disney in a final tune-up start. ... The Braves and Red Sox received permission from the commissionerto use the designated hitter for the two weekend exhibition games at Turner Field.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.