Cox dealing with patchwork bullpen

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ATLANTA - The Atlanta Braves' three-game sweep of Cincinnati didn't mask manager Bobby Cox's increasingly difficult challenge of dealing with injuries to his pitching staff.

Cox is resigned to the probability he will lose top set-up reliever Peter Moylan to season-ending surgery at a time closer Rafael Soriano is on the disabled list with a sore elbow and starter John Smoltz is back on the DL with a sore shoulder.

"We broke camp with a good team and we still do, but we're missing Smoltz and our top two relievers, Soriano and Moylan," Cox said Sunday.

Cox said offseason moves by general manager Frank Wren, including the trade for starter Jair Jurrjens, has helped the team cope with the injuries.

Moylan, who went on the 15-day disabled list on April 15, threw only a few pitches in the bullpen on Saturday as he tested his strained right elbow.

"I think they're going to operate on him next week," Cox said.

"He threw (Saturday) to try to make it hurt, and it hurt like hell."

Moylan, who had been hoping the soreness would disappear with rest, may be reluctant to accept the seemingly inevitable reconstructive elbow surgery. Moylan consulted with Soriano on Sunday about Soriano's Tommy John surgery but hasn't confirmed he's bound for the season-ending procedure.

"I still don't know yet," Moylan said Sunday.

Smoltz, who went on the disabled list Tuesday, plans to return as a reliever when healthy, and the Braves also are awaiting the return of Mike Gonzalez from his 2007 elbow surgery as early as this month.

With Soriano, Smoltz, Gonzalez and current closer Manny Acosta, Cox would have strong ninth-inning options. For now, Cox has to try different bullpen combinations to get to the ninth inning.

"With the bullpen it's sort of mix and match right now," Cox said. "We've got to get through it for another couple of weeks."

On Sunday, when starter Tom Glavine couldn't complete the fifth inning, Cox used relievers Royce Ring, Jorge Campillo, Will Ohman, Blaine Boyer and Acosta. The five combined to give up only four hits and one run.

"Our bullpen has been really good," Cox said. "Overall, for the roles they've been in and everything, they've been good."

Soriano said he is "feeling better" and plans to throw batting practice on Tuesday "to see if everything is all right."

"We'll see what happens," Soriano said. "When I come back I want to be 100 percent."

HAPPY 40TH: The Braves closed their clubhouse doors after batting practice for a private surprise birthday party for Eddie Perez, who was kept busy on the field while preparations were made.

The popular Perez, who played 11 years in the major leagues as a catcher, including nine with Atlanta, celebrated his 40th birthday.

"Happy Birthday, Old Man" read the banner at his locker.

CHIPPER ON A HOT STREAK: How hot is Chipper Jones? He had three hits Sunday, including his ninth homer, and leads the major leagues with his.425 batting average.

But there's more. Jones is even hot off the field.

Braves players had their private Kentucky Derby pool, with players pulling names by blind draw.

Jones' pick? The winner, Big Brown, of course.


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