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Braves notebook: Back tightness forces Kotsay out

POSTED: June 7, 2008 5:00 a.m.

ATLANTA — Mark Kotsay was held out of Monday’s starting lineup after he experienced tightness in his back during batting practice.

It was the first time Kotsay has been unable to play due to the back, which was a concern when he signed with the team.

Kotsay hit only .214 with one homer in 56 games for Oakland in 2007 following back surgery before the season. He has been solid for the Braves while making 43 starts in center field and appearing in 47 of 51 games.

Kotsay, hitting .294 with four homers and 21 RBIs, was in manager Bobby Cox’s original lineup. Cox adjusted by moving Gregor Blanco from left field to start for Kotsay and giving Greg Norton his first start of the season in left field.

"It’s just a little tighter than I’ve been," said Kotsay, who said the decision was "a little precautionary."

"We knew that going into the season there’d be days I’d have to make the decision to take myself out," Kotsay said. "(Monday was) one of those days. Better not to push it."

Kotsay said his back "hasn’t been an issue up to now, and I don’t think it’s an issue now. I just want to be on the safe side."

Norton was 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in the Braves’ 7-3 win over Arizona.

Blanco played well in the field and was 3-for-3 with a walk, raising his batting average to .299. He tied his career high with the three hits.

Soriano almost ready
Right-handed reliever Rafael Soriano appeared to be on the verge of being activated from the 15-man disabled list before reporting more soreness in his right elbow on Sunday.

"I don’t think it’ll be a big deal," Soriano said Monday.

Soriano will travel with the team to Milwaukee and plans to throw in the bullpen today. "We’ll see after that," he said.

If Soriano has no difficulty today, he could be activated.

Smoltz staying in Atlanta
Before the game, Cox said he planned for John Smoltz to accompany the team to Milwaukee. Instead, Cox said after the game that Smoltz, who has flu-like symptoms, will remain in Atlanta but could join the team in Cincinnati later in the week.

It’s unclear how Smoltz’s illness will affect Cox’s prediction earlier Monday that Smoltz could come off the disabled list during the six-game road trip.

Cox said Smoltz’s next move after pitching one inning for Double-A Mississippi this week "is up in the air."

"He may face batters, he may go in another (minor-league) game," Cox said.

Smoltz, on the disabled list since April 29 with a sore shoulder, reported no problems with his shoulder after Saturday night’s rehab stint.

Meanwhile, left-hander Mike Gonzalez, who has been throwing in extended spring training in Florida as he continues his recovery from elbow surgery, will be examined today and could begin a minor league rehab schedule this week at Mississippi or Triple-A Richmond.

Looking ahead
The Braves list Tim Hudson, Jo-Jo Reyes and Jorge Campillo as their starting pitchers in the three-game series at Milwaukee, but Campillo must prove he won’t be affected by blisters on two fingers on his pitching hand.

The Braves activated Buddy Carlyle from the 15-man disabled list on Monday and designated reliever Chris Resop for assignment. Carlyle or Jeff Bennett, who pitched one-third of an inning on Monday, could make a fill-in start for Campillo, if necessary.



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