Originally created 09/30/05

Cox faces tough roster decisions

ATLANTA - Don't try to tell Brian Jordan the Atlanta Braves' final series of the regular season is meaningless.

Just because the Braves already have clinched their 14th consecutive division title, much is still on the line for Jordan and others still trying to prove their playoff worth to manager Bobby Cox.

The Braves finish their regular season with a three-game weekend series at Florida, beginning tonight.

Jordan had two hits, including a triple capped by a headfirst slide, in a rare start Wednesday night. He said he hopes to get more playing time at Florida.

Through most of his career, including an earlier stint with Atlanta, Jordan would have been one of the starters who would be resting after his team clinched a playoff spot.

This year has been different. At 38, Jordan began the season as a starter but was passed over by rookie outfielders Ryan Langerhans, Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur while he missed 51 games with inflammation in his left knee.

After he was activated from the disabled list Sept. 1, he was mostly limited to pinch-hit duty as the Braves focused on winning another NL East championship.

Now Jordan is one of several players who might be on the bubble as Cox faces some difficult roster decisions.

Jordan said he feels "pretty good."

"Brian can still run," Cox said before adding "as long as his knee doesn't puff up."

Jordan said he has been working to be ready for the postseason - puffy knee or not.

"My thing is once you get to the playoffs, you do whatever it takes," Jordan said. "You've got to lay it on the line."

Cox seems to be perplexed by his roster options. He says, by the final days of the regular season he only has to decide between two players for one final spot.

"This year is different," Cox said. "We have 11 (players) for about four (spots)."

Catchers Johnny Estrada and Brian McCann are locks, but Cox might take a third catcher, Brayan Pena, because Estrada's back has been a concern most of the season.

There are no such luxuries allowed once postseason rosters are set, a fact which would make it more of a gamble to enter even a five-game division series with only two catchers.

Meanwhile, barring problems with his stiff right shoulder while throwing on the side in Florida this weekend, John Smoltz is the likely Game 1 starter for the Braves. But Cox said he hasn't decided whether to go with three or four starting pitchers.

Tim Hudson is the second starter. Cox hasn't said if John Thomson or Jorge Sosa is the No. 3 starter. Either way, Horacio Ramirez might not make the playoff roster, unless he is kept as a left-handed reliever.

The best bets in the bullpen are closer Kyle Farnsworth, set-up man Chris Reitsma and left-handers Macay McBride, a Screven County graduate, and John Foster. Cox must decide whether Blaine Boyer, who had to leave Monday night's game with a sore right shoulder, is healthy enough to pitch.

Former closer Dan Kolb, who gave up four runs on six hits in the ninth inning Wednesday night, has a 5.81 ERA and appears to be a longshot to make the roster.

Wilson Betemit and Pete Orr appear likely to make the postseason roster as backup infielders, and Cox must decide what outfielders to keep behind starters Andruw Jones, Jeff Francoeur and Ryan Langerhans.

There might be no more than one or two roster spots for Jordan, Johnson and Todd Hollandsworth.

Jordan said he hopes he showed Cox he deserves a spot.

"I've been there and I know what to expect," he said. "It's the same Brian Jordan, it's just a matter of getting a chance to play."


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