Originally created 05/16/04

Braves notebook

MILWAUKEE - Chipper Jones had his first three-hit game of the season Thursday, followed it with a home run in Friday's game, but still doesn't feel comfortable at the plate.

"It's just timing, seeing the ball out of the pitcher's hand and adjusting to it," said the left fielder, who is 4-for-20 since coming off the disabled list May 8. "You're seeing me roll over a lot of balls and hit them to second base. When you see me shooting that change-up into left-center, that's when you know I'm getting it back."

After hitting his fourth home run in Friday's 2-0 win over the Brewers, Jones explained that he's swinging a "slider-speed bat."

"I'm just a half a count behind the fastball and half a count ahead of the change-up," he said.

After striking out nine times in his first 35 at-bats this season, Jones, who missed nearly three weeks with a partial hamstring tear, has whiffed six more times in 20 at-bats since his return.

He said he's not surprised that it's taken a while to knock the rust off his swing.

"I'll know I'm swinging good when I can let my swing go and consistently hit it on the sweet spot," he said. "I can't do that right now. I've got to cut down on my swing just to make good contact."

Jones' injury has placed his streak of eight consecutive 100-RBI seasons in serious jeopardy. He came into Saturday night's game with just eight RBI in 55 at-bats; he had 35 RBI at the end of May last year and finished with 106.

BATLESS BETEMIT: Despite watching shortstop Wilson Betemit mess up a double play, manager Bobby Cox has been delighted with the rookie's defense.

It's his hitting that's been disappointing. Betemit has looked lost at the plate, managing just two puny singles and whiffing five times in 16 at-bats since he was called up from Class AAA Richmond.

The switch-hitting Betemit, 22, batted .245 at Richmond two years ago, then hit .280 after the All-Star break last season to finish with a .262 average with the R-Braves. His hitting has never been questioned. It was his lackadaisical approach to defense that concerned the Braves. But in filling in for Rafael Furcal and Jesse Garcia, his defense has been excellent.

Cox had Betemit at leadoff Friday, but after watching him single through the middle in his first at-bat, then fail to get the ball out of the infield in three subsequent trips, he shifted him to No. 8 on Saturday.

It was the Braves' 30th different lineup in the first 35 games.

MARRERO MIA: Eli Marrero has been the team's Invisible Man, missing all but nine games this season with two stints on the disabled list, will probably start a rehab assignment with a minor league club when the team returns home.

Marrero, who was briefly hospitalized in Atlanta two weeks ago with an upper respiratory infection, has batted .091 (2-for-22) with his new team.



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