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Reyes making a case to stay in majors

POSTED: April 30, 2009 9:51 p.m.
John Bazemore/The Associated Press

Atlanta Braves starter Jo-Jo Reyes works in the first inning of against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday in Atlanta.

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ATLANTA — Jo-Jo Reyes wasn’t included in many preseason projections for the Atlanta Braves’ rotation.

Now Reyes’ stock is on the rise.

Though he hasn’t won a game since last June, Reyes impressed manager Bobby Cox and others with a strong start Tuesday night in the Braves’ only win of their three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

As Tom Glavine’s status remains uncertain and Kenshin Kawakami is suffering shoulder fatigue, Reyes suddenly is a more important part of the rotation as the Braves prepare to open a weekend series against Houston on tonight.

Glavine, 43, is attempting to return from offseason surgeries to his left elbow and shoulder. The procedure to the elbow was believed to be more serious, but Glavine has had ongoing problems with soreness in the shoulder.

Glavine threw in the outfield this week and hopes to throw off a mound early next week. He was encouraged by his progress this week, but has talked openly of retiring if he has continued soreness.

The Braves may have to stick with Reyes, who has five career wins, instead of Glavine and his 305 wins as the left-hander at the back of their rotation.

Reyes allowed only three hits, one walk and one run in seven innings but did not get the decision in the Braves’ 2-1 win over the Cardinals on Tuesday night. The 24-year-old retired 13 consecutive batters.

“I think Tuesday night was the coming out party, that’s for sure,” Cox said Wednesday.

Reyes’ emergence comes at good time for Atlanta.

The Braves revealed a new concern in their rotation on Wednesday, announcing that Kawakami has right shoulder fatigue and will have his next scheduled start pushed back from Saturday to Tuesday.

Reyes was only 3-11 with a 5.81 ERA last season, but Cox said the left-hander has learned from pitching coach Roger McDowell.

“That’s the best ball game I’ve seen Jo-Jo throw,” Cox said after Tuesday night’s game. “He looked exactly like what Roger’s trying to get him to do: Be a pitcher. Don’t try to throw 95 (miles per hour).

“He just started getting the idea that he’s a pitcher, not a flame-thrower.”

Cox said Reyes remains “a work in progress.”

Others have also noticed Reyes’ growth.

“I think Jo-Jo’s starting to figure it out,” said Tim Hudson, who was the staff ace before having elbow ligament-replacement surgery last season. Hudson hopes to return in the second half of this season.

“I could tell in spring he’s starting to take the next step,” Hudson said of Reyes. “We’ve always known what kind of stuff he’s had.”
He’s excited to get back to pitching and show people what he can do.”

Reyes, who showed up this season looking more trim and throwing with more control, was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four spring starts.

“He definitely has a different aura out there about him I think than he has in the last couple years,” Hudson said.

Reyes said his strong start against the Cardinals this week showed he “just carried everything over” from his first start of the season.
On April 18 at Pittsburgh, Reyes gave up only three hits and one run in five innings before giving up four runs, including a three-run homer, in the sixth inning of a 10-0 loss.

The final line wasn’t pretty, but Reyes said he didn’t forget how well he threw in the first five innings.

“I was happy about that last start, except for one pitch,” he said.

Minor league pitcher Tommy Hanson was the talk of spring training and is still the franchise’s top prospect at Triple A Gwinnett. The Braves have other options for their rotation, including Jorge Campillo, who began the season in the bullpen, and Charlie Morton.

But as the Braves monitor Glavine’s progress, Reyes (0-1) was given the first shot at joining Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens and Kawakami in the rotation.

Reyes, who lost his last seven decisions in 2008 and his only decision this season, is trying to avoid becoming the first Braves pitcher to have nine straight losses since Marty Clary in 1990.

Reyes insisted he’s not focused on the fact he hasn’t won a game since June 13, 2008 at the Los Angeles Angels.

“My job is to go out there and give the team a chance to win,” he said. “That should be every pitcher’s goal.”



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