MLB Insiders - Atlanta Braves

Ian Snell

The Pirates open the 2008 season with a three game series in Atlanta. In the opener on Monday night the Bucs will toss right-hander Ian Snell. The Braves will counter with veteran lefty Tom Glavine.

Manager Bobby Cox has been excited since Feb. 1 about the depth in his pitching staff. Right up until Opening Day, that had been the first thing he mentioned in any interview about the season.

And at first blush, it may appear that the maneuvering caused by having so many pitchers out of options -- right-hander Tyler Yates was recently dealt to the Pirates, for example -- supports Cox's optimism. But by the final week of spring training, arms that appeared so promising at the beginning of March were turning in less than spectacular results.

Right-hander Rafael Soriano fell behind early, strength and opportunity-wise, after a bout with the flu. Last season, he was prone at certain points to giving up home runs. He is the closer this year.

Right-hander Blaine Boyer, who started off strong after spending all of last season recovering from injury, turned in a horrible inning in the March 28 exhibition game against the Indians at Turner Field.

Right-hander Peter Moylan, so steady for so many innings last season, was rocked when he started and pitched one inning against the Mets on March 27, giving up three earned runs. His struggles extended into the season opener, when he gave up a walk-off homer to Washington's Ryan Zimmerman.

So it won't take much for the door to the bullpen to start revolving this season.

NATIONALS 3, BRAVES 2: Chipper Jones christened Nationals Park with the first home run, but the Atlanta offense was otherwise subdued Sunday in the Braves' opener.

Right-hander Tim Hudson threw 29 pitches and gave up two runs in the first inning before settling down with a brilliant sinker. Hudson didn't allow another run in his seven-inning outing, and he gave up just three hits.

--LHP Chuck James, placed on the disabled list Saturday, is scheduled to throw simulated innings at Class A Rome (Ga.) this week, staying on target to back up RHP John Smoltz if Smoltz is unable to make his first regular-season start April 6 against the Mets. James learned after last season that he had a partially torn rotator cuff, and he has been rehabbing without undergoing surgery. Smoltz is on the DL due to right shoulder soreness.

--INF Ruben Gotay says he is disappointed that he didn't make the Mets roster, but he's resolved to put that behind him and get down to work for the Braves.

--RHP Jeff Bennett is keeping an old belt in his locker, a reminder of the 50 pounds he has lost. His delivery is freer, he believes, without the extra bulk, the equivalent of five notches.

--3B Chipper Jones is pleased with his right-handed hitting and says his left-handed hitting is almost where he wants it to be.

--RHP Tim Hudson's throwing error in the first inning Sunday night was his first since 2005.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Catchers the Braves are carrying, for the moment.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It could make all the difference in the world in the season, to have a guy of his caliber going out there for you." -- Manager Bobby Cox on the return of LHP Mike Hampton after the veteran missed two seasons due to injury.

MEDICAL WATCH:

RHP John Smoltz (neck and right shoulder soreness) was scratched from his March 21 start. He opened the regular season on the disabled list, but he hopes to start for the Braves on April 6.

LHP Mike Gonzalez (Tommy John elbow surgery in May 2007) is not expected to be ready to pitch until after the All-Star break, but he hopes to return in May. He went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21.

INF Omar Infante (broken left hand) was expected all along to have a delayed start to the season, but the timetable has been pushed back. Instead of missing the first week, he may miss the first month. He went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21.

RHP Anthony Lerew (Tommy John elbow surgery in July 2007) went on the 60-day disabled list retroactive to March 21.

LHP Chuck James (left shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21. He could be activated in early April.

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