The Braves Report

Here's the latest news on the Atlanta Braves as they prepare for a weekend series in Denver against the Rockies.

INSIDE PITCH

Coors Field looms.

This is never good news for even the most proficient pitching staff, let alone the suddenly wobbly back end of the Braves' five-man rotation.

Right-hander John Smoltz has been himself, and more, as everyone expected him to be. Right-hander Tim Hudson, healed, conditioned and once again mastering four pitches, has been what everyone expected him to be two years ago.

Left-hander Chuck James has found himself in trouble more often than not lately. But his calm temperament has stayed steady, which one expects will allow him to weather the season.

So far, so good.

The problems are left-hander Mark Redman and right-hander Kyle Davies. Manager Bobby Cox continues to believe -- or at least this is what he's saying -- that Redman, who signed late, is still in his spring training. Redman has had one good start -- in which he got a loss -- but has not been sharp otherwise.

Davies has the excuse (so far) of having missed most of last season after groin surgery. And he is a young pitcher, so some inconsistency is natural. But Cox is most definitely monitoring the situation, good start to the season notwithstanding.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Tim Hudson recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts Wednesday against the Marlins, but he was denied his fourth win when RHP Bob Wickman blew the save in the ninth inning.

--RHP Lance Cormier's next scheduled rehab start, with Class AAA Richmond on Friday, was scrapped Thursday when he had discomfort in his right arm. The team planned to re-examine him in Atlanta before determining the next step. Cormier is on the disabled list with a strained right triceps.

--RF Jeff Francoeur says his buddy C Brian McCann's advice to keep his elbow down when he swings is the reason for his sudden consistency at the plate.

--RHP Peter Moylan, after a shaky first outing, has really come through for the Braves. His sinker is really sinking. In his last four outings, covering 6 2/3 innings, he's allowed no runs and one hit.

--INF Willy Aybar remains AWOL, failing to report to meetings with Major League Baseball officials regarding his apparent substance-abuse problem. He remains on indefinite suspension by the Braves.


BY THE NUMBERS:

119 -- Number of points second baseman Kelly Johnson's batting average rose in three games from April 17-19.


QUOTE TO NOTE:

"I'd love to do this until the day I die, but that wouldn't be normal." -- Manager Bobby Cox.

MEDICAL WATCH

RHP Chad Paronto (strained right adductor muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list on April 15.

RHP Lance Cormier (stiff shoulder) went on the disabled list retroactive to March 31. He began a minor league rehab assignment on April 22 but was shut down on April 26 due to discomfort in his right arm.

INF Willy Aybar (sprained right hand) opened the season on the disabled list. He was suspended indefinitely on April 18 for failing to report for treatment and still has not reported.

LHP Mike Hampton (torn flexor tendon in left elbow) had surgery April 10 and is out for the season.

RHP Tanyon Sturtze (right shoulder) opened the season on the disabled list.


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