Originally created 04/15/04

Atlanta not in New York state of body



NEW YORK - The injury news remained as grim as the Flushing forecast Wednesday with Chipper Jones, J.D. Drew and Rafael Furcal out of the Atlanta Braves lineup again.

Steady afternoon rain made for soggy conditions at Shea Stadium, prompting Braves manager Bobby Cox to hold Jones out despite the left fielder's insistence that he could play.

"I hate sitting out any game, but it's too early in the season to be taking chances," said Jones, who strained his right hamstring Sunday and missed Monday's game.

"The field conditions are not real conducive to keep a bad hamstring healthy. One slip and I'm right back to square one."

Jones said his hamstring had improved and he hopes to play in tonight's series finale. But he has not tested his leg yet and if the conditions remain wet, Cox might wait until the team returns to Atlanta this weekend to play him.

"We've all got to have peace of mind that it's going to be all right when I go out there," Jones said.

Drew, who suffered a strained left hamstring in Monday's game, arrived at Shea about 2 p.m. Wednesday and spent the next 31Ž2 hours receiving hot and cold treatment and stimulation on his leg.

But he probably won't return to the lineup until Friday, at the earliest.

"There's still a little area in there that I don't want to aggravate," he said.

"My flexibility is great and I don't have a whole lot of pain, but I don't want to do anything stupid and miss a whole bunch of games."

Furcal has missed four games with a strained lower back. He said his back has improved, though it remains sore and he doesn't expect to play until the weekend.

"I don't want to watch games, I want to play," he said.

The injuries forced Cox to use his seventh different lineup. He made rookie first baseman Adam LaRoche his cleanup hitter and penciled in Eli Marrero, activated from the disabled list Wednesday, to right field.

Jesse Garcia remained the shortstop and Dewayne Wise returned to left field.

"I think they're almost out of options," LaRoche said, explaining Cox's decision to bat him in the cleanup spot. "That's the reason for it. But I like it. Hitting three or four is where I'm most comfortable."

Said Cox: "He's there because he can hit. Heck, he did it in spring training for us."

To make room for Marrero, who suffered an abdominal strain late in spring training, the team optioned third baseman/outfielder Mike Hessman to Class AAA Richmond.

Marrero played in three games during a rehab assignment with Class AA Greenville and was 5 for 12 (.417) with two home runs and five RBI.

GETTING BETTER: Armando Almanza proved he's ready to rejoin the bullpen after pitching three shutout innings for Greenville on Tuesday.

The left-hander will be evaluated by team doctors and likely will be activated this weekend.

That means the team will have to drop a reliever to make room for Almanza and it appears the odd man out is right-hander Will Cunnane, who has given up runs in three of his four appearances.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.