ATLANTA — Some experienced relievers on the mend could begin joining the Atlanta Braves’ bullpen as early as today.
Rafael Soriano could be activated from the disabled list today, when John Smoltz is scheduled to throw on the side after making a successful one-inning appearance with Double-A Mississippi on Saturday.
Smoltz allowed one hit in one scoreless inning on Saturday. He threw 12 pitches, including eight strikes. Smoltz was sick Sunday but told team spokesman Brad Hainje it was not related to his sore shoulder. Braves manager Bobby Cox said no final decision had been made on Soriano being activated from the DL today. Before the game, Cox said "One more day" when asked about plans for the right-hander.
Soriano opened the season as the closer but went on the disabled list with a sore elbow on April 9.
Cox said Smoltz would remain with the team when it begins a road trip at Milwaukee on Tuesday. Cox did not clarify if Smoltz would be with the team only to continue his rehabilitation schedule or to come off the disabled list.
Meanwhile, Mike Gonzalez will check in with the team Monday in Atlanta after throwing on back-to-back days in extended spring training in Florida on Friday and Saturday. Gonzalez is returning from Tommy John elbow ligament-replacement surgery in 2007.
Smoltz, who opened the season on the DL before coming back to make five starts, has been out since April 29 with a sore shoulder. He will pitch out of the bullpen, probably as the team’s closer, when he returns.
Chipper Jones missed Sunday’s 9-3 loss to Arizona with back spasms.
Jones also missed two games at the New York Mets on April 26-27 with back spasms. He said the earlier problem was more widespread while Sunday’s pain was only under his left shoulder blade.
Jones, hitting .417 to lead the major leagues, said he first felt the back pain below his left shoulder while playing with his children on Saturday night. He said he arrived at Turner Field about 8:30 a.m. for a back adjustment, which relieved some discomfort.
Omar Infante filled in for Jones at third base, and Kelly Johnson moved into Jones’ No. 3 spot in the batting order.
Johnson asked Jones before the game for some tips on hitting third.
Jones, laughing, said "Get ready for a heater, dude; you’ve got Tex hitting behind you."
Jones said having Mark Teixeira as the team’s cleanup hitter has meant he has seen more fastballs. Johnson was 1-for-4 with a third-inning single and a run scored.
Infante drove in a run with a second-inning single.
A WALK AT THE PARK
Braves pitchers issued 11 walks Sunday, including six in 4 2-3 innings by starting pitcher Tom Glavine.
Glavine had an animated discussion with home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom early in the game after several close pitches were called balls.
"I was really happy with the way I threw the ball, just not happy with what the results were," Glavine said after giving up five hits and six runs.
"I felt pretty comfortable about where I was trying to throw the ball and what I was trying to do but for one reason or another things didn’t work out."
Glavine wouldn’t provide details of his discussion with Cederstrom.
The 11 walks were the most by Braves pitchers since April 29, 2007 at Colorado, when they issued 13 walks in a 9-7 loss to the Rockies in 11 innings.
Brian McCann left the game in the eighth inning with heat-related symptoms but should be fine to start Monday, according to Cox.
"It was so hot out there and a four-hour game," Cox said. "It’s a long time for a catcher to be out there."
With all the walks, the game surely felt like it lasted four hours to Cox, but the actual length of the game was 3 hours, 24 minutes.
McCann had a second-inning single to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. He has hit .423 (30 for 71) in May to raise his batting average to .337.