Braves Notebook: 12/3

<B>Braves Notebook - 12/3:</B> It's official, <B>John Smoltz</B> will be the Braves closer in 2004. Is this a good decision for the club? Putting the team leader, and a capable starter, in the bullpen? <BR> <BR> Plus - <B>Notes and Quotes</B>: Braves re-shuffle front office. <B>McGuirk</B> promises changes, but a competitive club.

It isn't really news that John Smoltz will remain in the bullpen next season and not slide back into the Braves' starting rotation. The team figured to keep him right where he is.

But the speculation wasn't entirely groundless.

Smoltz is always brooding about something, and toward the end of the season, as he tried to pretend his elbow didn't hurt, he started talking about starting again.

For one thing, he had concluded that he throws so many pitches warming up again and again that he throws the equivalent of a seven-inning game. He's wrong, of course, but that's what he's thinking.

The other thing that gets to him is that he has no control over when he goes into a game. He has to depend of the starter and the offense to turn the game over to him.

Do the words "control freak" ring a bell?

Add to this the lack of an emotional leader in the dugout, which Smoltz dearly wants to be. Gary Sheffield mentioned this recently when he asked why the Braves can't translate regular-season success into a World Series championship.

Smoltz was so stressed out over all of this by September that he developed sores in his mouth. That, finally, did hamper his ability to talk. But between gritted teeth, he insisted that pain was not a problem. The problem was needing more time to get loose, yet another reason for starting instead of relieving.

But it's not going to happen.


-- OF Gary Matthews Jr. was claimed off waivers from the San Diego Padres.

-- Terry McGuirk, TBS vice chairman and CEO of Turner Sports Teams, has assumed the title of Braves chairman and president following last week's resignation of longtime team president Stan Kasten. John Schuerholz remains executive vice president and general manager.

Otherwise, McGuirk is reorganizing the Braves leadership team. Board chairman Bill Bartholomay becomes chairman emeritus; he will represent the team in "key constituencies," including owners meetings. Bob Wolfe, formerly senior vice president of the Braves, will be an operational advisor.

Mike Plant, an executive vice president of Turner Sports and president of Turner Broadcasting's Goodwill Games, has been named executive vice president of business operations, and Derek Schiller, vice president of sales and marketing for the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, becomes the Braves' senior vice president of sales and marketing.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- Braves franchise records held or shared by Warren Spahn, the winningest left-handed pitcher in major league history, who died on Nov. 24 at age 82. Included are most games started (635), most games completed (374), innings pitched (5,046) and shutouts (63). He won 20 or more games in a season 13 times, a National League record, and led the league in wins eight times, in ERA three times and in complete games nine times.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel very good about always being in the National League. I pitched every four days and always nine innings." -- Warren Spahn at his induction into the Braves Hall of Fame on August 20, 1999.

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