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Cox aiming for return of Smoltz within two weeks

POSTED: June 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.

ATLANTA — One day after John Smoltz said he would not set a timetable on his return from the disabled list, Braves manager Bobby Cox did the job for him.

Cox also gave a projected timetable for the returns of two more injured Braves pitchers, Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano.

"I think within the next 12 days all three of them will be up here — or close," Cox said.

Smoltz, 41, has been on the disabled list since April 29 with a sore right shoulder.

He said he was still dealing with inflammation and discomfort after his two bullpen sessions last week but had better success on Tuesday.

Cox hinted Smoltz may not need another side session in Atlanta before beginning a minor league rehabilitation stint.

"I don’t know for sure," Cox said. "He felt awfully good yesterday." Smoltz is 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA in five starts. He began the season on the disabled list with the sore shoulder and has been out more than three weeks on his second DL stint.

Smoltz plans to pitch out of the bullpen, probably as the team’s closer, when he returns. He said pitching in relief should cause less stress to the shoulder.

Gonzalez, a left-handed reliever, is returning from Tommy John elbow ligament-replacement surgery.

Soriano, who opened the season as the closer, has been out since April 9 with a sore elbow.

Raves for Campillo

Cox had more praise for the performance of Jorge Campillo in his first start of the season on Tuesday night.

Campillo allowed only three hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in six scoreless innings. Campillo has earned another start on Saturday against Arizona.

Escobar update

Shortstop Yunel Escobar was still sore on Wednesday and was held out of the lineup following his collision with Ryan Church on the final play of Tuesday night’s second game.

Escobar, turning a double play at second base to end the game, threw to first while trying to jump and avoid Church’s late slide. Escobar’s knee struck Church in the head.

Church suffered a slight concussion and also did not start Wednesday night.

Escobar’s right knee was sore and slightly swollen.

Cox said Church’s slide "was extremely late."

"You’ve got to slide before you get to the bag, not after you get even with it," Cox said. "I don’t know if (Church) got his stride messed up or what."

Church said he watched the replay and had no regrets.

"I’d do it all over again," Church said. "I was trying to break the double play up."

Cox said Escobar may miss only one game. Omar Infante filled in as the starting shortstop and leadoff hitter.

Happy birthday

"Don’t say that," Cox said when mention was made of his 67th birthday before Wednesday’s game. Cox forgot to tell the video board operator, which focused on Cox before the game and announced the birthday. Cox smiled and tipped his hat to the applause.

Worth noting

Jeff Francoeur was back in the lineup as the starting right fielder after his streak of 370 consecutive games played ended in Tuesday night’s second game. The 370-game streak was half as long as Dale Murphy’s team-record 740. ... Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep was the first for the Braves since sweeping the Cubs on July 7, 2005.



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