Originally created 07/18/04

Cox teaching an old dog some new tricks



ATLANTA - Andruw Jones looked like a little kid on a barren sandlot field, tossing the ball up to himself and hitting ground balls and line drives.

The Braves' center fielder was actually doing a simple drill before batting practice for Saturday's game against the Montreal Expos at Turner Field, one taught to him by manager Bobby Cox to help him hit inside pitches and breaking balls.

Jones has a tendency to loop his swing and extend his hands, making it difficult for him to "stay inside" pitches, as Cox likes to say. As a result, many major league pitchers will concentrate on the inside half of the plate when facing Jones.

The drill forces Jones, a right-handed hitter, to keep his hands close to his body and hit the ball to the right side of the field.

The irony of the drill is that had he done it more when he was a little kid, he might not have to practice it now.

"Growing up, I never hit the ball the other way," he said. "I pulled the ball all my life. I have to make an adjustment and use the whole field."

MERE MORTAL: Set-up man Chris Reitsma's stretch of invincibility is over. The right-handed hurler, who didn't allow a run in a stretch of 10 appearances between June 20 and July 7, gave up two runs in an inning Friday night, the second time in three appearances he's given up two runs or more.

Cox blamed Reitsma's ineffectiveness Friday on rustiness. With last week's All-Star break, Reitsma went five days between pitching appearances, his longest inactive stretch this season.

GILES OVER GREEN: Infielder Nick Green isn't playing every day now that Marcus Giles has returned from injury. So the rookie gets most of his work in early.

"I just stay ready," he said. "Chipper isn't going to get many nights off. He's a key part of our lineup. And so is (Rafael) Furcal."

Green is sure to get his chances, though. He batted .280 while filling in for Giles and impressed Cox enough the manager kept him on the Braves' roster and sent Jesse Garcia back to the minors.

SHORT HOPS: Pitcher Horacio Ramirez's shoulder continues to be a physiological mystery. Twice the left-hander has flirted with coming off the disabled list only to feel stiffness in the shoulder that he pitches with. He's been out since May 26 with the malady, which was diagnosed as tendinitis. He threw lightly during Saturday's pregame but gave no indication of when he thought he would return. ... Right-hander John Thomson (6-7) will pitch today's series finale against Montreal. Left-hander Scott Downs (1-3) goes for the Expos.

Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424.