ATLANTA - Gene Garber doesn't pay much attention to the Atlanta Braves anymore, but he was aware of John Smoltz's march toward the franchise saves record he had owned since 1987.
So, when Smoltz claimed the 142nd save of his career last Thursday against the San Diego Padres, Garber wasn't surprised.
"I knew he was getting close, but it was such a foregone conclusion. I hadn't given it much thought," said Garber, who amassed 218 saves during a 19-year career in the big leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies and Braves.
While the two closers are now linked in team history, there's little else to connect them. Garber was a finesse pitcher, his best pitch a changeup.
Smoltz is all about power and has one of the game's best sliders. Also, in the 17 years since Garber last recorded a save for the Braves, the closer's role has changed dramatically.
In Garber's day, it was standard practice for a closer to work two or three innings. Now, in the age of specialization, Smoltz has been asked to work more than one inning in only 15 of his 57 games this season.
REAWAKENED: Think Vinny Castilla will ever consider leaving Colorado again?
The 37-year-old third baseman spent the first seven years of his career with the Rockies, hitting 40 or more home runs three times and knocking in 100 runs four times.
After two years in Atlanta, he signed a one-year, $2.1-million contract with Colorado last winter and he's thriving again at Coors Field.
Most of Castilla's outstanding numbers - .280, 25 home runs and 102 RBI - have come in mile-high conditions. He's a .344 hitter with 13 homers and 70 RBI at Coors, while posting a .202 average, 12 home runs and 32 RBI on the road.
SHORT HOPS: At his current pace, Andruw Jones has a chance to claim a pair of dubious records. The center fielder, who has rolled into 22 double plays, tying him for the major league lead, needs just two more twin killings to match Dale Murphy's 1988 Atlanta record and six more to match Sid Gordon's 1951 franchise record. Also, Jones has a shot at Andres Galarraga's 1998 strikeout record of 146.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.
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