Bobby Wick checks out okay

 
08/10/2007 6:22 PM ET - PHILADELPHIA -- With his mind at ease, Bob Wickman arrived at Citizens Bank Park early Friday evening and told Braves manager Bobby Cox that he's available to resume immediately his closing duties.

Because a canceled flight prevented him from making his scheduled visit to see doctors in Atlanta, Wickman visited a Philadelphia-area medical facility Friday afternoon and was relieved to find there isn't any structural damage in his right forearm. A CAT scan revealed that the discomfort he's felt over the past few weeks has been caused by some inflammation.

"It clears my mind," Wickman said. "I'm 38. You never know."

Despite battling the discomfort, Wickman has allowed just one run in the 9 1/3 innings he's pitched since the All-Star break. The only time he was unavailable during this span came on Thursday, when the Braves normally would have called upon him to help secure what became a nail-biting 7-6 win over the Mets.

For Friday's series opener against the Phillies, Cox said he'll definitely use Wickman if necessary. The veteran skipper will also be able to call upon Manny Acosta, who was recalled from Triple-A Richmond.

He won't, however, have Octavio Dotel, who landed on the 15-day DL with a a right shoulder strain.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

After arm scare, Bobzilla proceeds directly to Save #19

After nearly a week off battling painful arm inflammation, it was back to business for Wick in an important division game against Philly. His unusual splits show a huge 7.78 ERA on the road compared to a 0.00 ERA at home. The odds were against him coming back against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night.

Entering a 7-5 ninth inning in Philadelphia, Bob gave a up a leadoff double to Coste before inducing a fly-ball out from Helms. 

The dangerous Jimmy Rollins, being very capable of tying the game, grounded out sharply to short before Tadahito Iguchi bounced one to short to end the game.

Despite undeserved criticism from fans and multiple challenges to his role as the Braves closer, Bob Wickman just keeps coming back. The relentless veteran continues to prove he's the team's best bet as he anchors his bullpen for what is shaping up to be a wild ride to the NL  pennant. J. Ladd 8/11/07

07/31/2007 3:00 PM ET

Trade-crazy Braves finalize deal for slugger Teixeira

Atlanta sends Saltalamacchia, four prospects to Texas

By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

 ATLANTA -- After nearly 24 hours of waiting, Braves general manager John Schuerholz was finally able to celebrate the official completion of the trade that brings Mark Teixeira to Atlanta.

But the cost is a little more expensive than it would have been when the deal was seemingly agreed upon Monday. Instead of four prospects, the Braves are now sending five prospects, including Jarrod Saltalamacchia, to Texas. This multi-player deal, which is headlined by Teixeira, was completed about 90 minutes before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline.

Along with Teixeira, this deal also fortifies the Braves bullpen with the addition of veteran left-handed reliever Ron Mahay. In exchange, the Rangers get Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones.

Jones, a 21-year-old southpaw selected by the Braves as a sandwich pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, was the final player added to this deal.

While others were bemoaning the scarcity of available talent on this year's trade market, Braves general manager John Schuerholz showed no signs of distress. With Saltalamacchia, he knew he had the most attractive prospect on the market and consequently the ability to get a player of Teixeira's stature.

But the centerpiece to this deal was obviously Teixeira, the 27-year-old first baseman, who averaged 38 homers during his first four Major League seasons. Along with a potent switch-hitter swing that will certainly pay dividends for Chipper Jones, he provides the sort of defensive reliability that has allowed him to win consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Awards.

"It makes us a real World Series contender," Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur said Monday afternoon. "I think especially in the National League, we now have the best lineup. One through eight [in the lineup], we have hitters that can jack it out of the park and rack up RBIs."

Teixeira will likely bat cleanup for the Braves, who trail the front-running Mets by 4 1/2 games in the National League East race. This would put him between the ever-hot Chipper Jones and ever-inconsistent Andruw Jones.

"I think if you were to put [Teixeira] in the four hole and move Andruw to the fifth hole, it would change things a little bit," Chipper Jones said on Friday.

If this is indeed Andruw's final season in Atlanta, Teixeira would be able to supply the lost power. Since the beginning of the 2004 season -- his second at the big league level -- the powerful first baseman has hit .290 with 127 homers, 415 RBIs and a .923 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).

During that span, among all Major Leaguers, his .546 slugging percentage ranks eighth and his .377 on-base percentage ranks 14th. As for the homer category, he ranks ninth -- four spots behind Andruw Jones, the man who will now follow him in this potent lineup.

Mahay's value can't be overlooked for a team like the Braves, who have spent much of this season without a left-handed specialist in their bullpen. The 36-year-old southpaw has limited opponents to a .236 batting average in 28 appearances this year. Left-handers are batting .250 against him.

During his three months with the Braves, Saltalamacchia hit .284 (40-for-141) with 12 homers and four RBIs. The 22-year-old switch-hitter, who has hit just .228 in July, was expendable due to the fact the Braves already have 23-year-old All-Star catcher Brian McCann in place.

Andrus has struggled as one of the youngest players in the Carolina League. But still, the 18-year-old shortstop, who played in the Futures Game earlier this month, is hitting .244 with three homers and 37 RBIs for Class A Myrtle Beach.

Feliz is a 19-year-old right-hander who has registered 70 strikeouts and issued 26 walks in the 55 1/3 innings he's compiled since the beginning of last season.

Harrison has gone 5-7 with a 3.39 ERA in 20 starts with Double-A Mississippi this year.

Trade-Crazy Braves also get Royals' Dotel for Davies

Veteran reliever shores up Atlanta's bullpen for stretch run

ATLANTA -- The Braves and Royals have completed a trade that brings right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel to Atlanta in exchange for right-handed starter Kyle Davies.

This deal was announced Tuesday afternoon, after the Braves officially completed their trade that brings Mark Teixeira and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay from Texas to Atlanta.

In 24 appearances with the Royals this year, Dotel has converted 11 of 14 save opportunities, posted a 3.91 ERA and seen opponents compile a .264 batting average. The 33-year-old right-hander, who had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2005, missed the first six weeks of the 2007 season with an oblique strain.

Davies, once considered a can't-miss prospect, has battled inconsistencies since tearing his right groin last year. The 23-year-old right-hander was 4-8 with a 5.76 ERA in 17 starts with the Braves this year. After not retiring any of the five Reds he faced in his July 16 start, he was optioned to Triple-A Richmond.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Braves begin second half with a sweep

Wick picks up his first win since opening day

It looks like the Braves really needed the four-day All-Star break, and used it to their advantage. The boys came back well rested and fired up some home cookin’ against the Pirates at Turner Field.

The Braves bats came alive for Tim Hudson in the Friday affair. Brian McCann starred in this one. He hit two home runs and a double, continuing the surge he started after being selected to the All-Star team 12 days earlier. McCann's offense and Atlanta's big sixth inning backed starting pitcher Tim Hudson's seven scoreless innings in the Braves' 9-1 win over the Pirates at Turner Field.

"It's a great start for the second half," Cox said. "Huddy was pretty much in complete control tonight, and we certainly got a lot of help from the hitters."

Bobby Wick looked brilliant picking up the win on Saturday night. He struck out 2 and pitched a scoreless ninth, leaving the score tied at 4 apiece and allowing Jeff Francoeur to be the hero with a bases loaded single up the middle for the game winner.

Francoeur, who is hitting .309 with two outs and runners in scoring position this season, directed Shawn Chacon's 2-1 sinker back up the middle to easily score Willie Harris and make sure the Braves wouldn't leave the bases loaded for a second straight inning. "[Francoeur] has done it a lot, always with two outs," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who saw his team win a fifth consecutive home game for the first time this season and stay within 1 1/2 games of the front-running Mets in the National League East race.

 Sunday’s 5-1 victory saw Buddy Carlyle throw 8 innings of one-run ball. With Carlyle providing a second straight solid eight-inning effort, and Edgar Renteria enjoying his fourth four-hit performance of the season, the Braves won their sixth straight home game and their seventh in the past eight games overall.

After gaining the two-run lead, Carlyle faced the minimum over the course of his final three innings. When the Wickster provided a perfect ninth for the second straight day, Carlyle was able to savor winning consecutive starts for the first time in his career.

So remember, when I tell you Braves fans that Bob Wickman is a bona-fide warhorse coming down the stretch, you’re hearing it from a certified Bobzilla expert. The last thing you have to worry about is your closer. J.Ladd – 7/16/07

Smoltz Notches Win #200

Deul against lifelong friend Tom Glavine ends in a 2-1 victory over the Mets

5-24-07: ATLANTA -- There are countless reasons John Smoltz wishes that he could have spent his entire career in Atlanta with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. From a selfish perspective, he believes their prolonged presence would have made him even better than he is today. Of course, those who have watched him display nothing but dominance against two of the Major League's top offenses over the past five days might argue that Smoltz would have a tough time being any greater than he's been since he turned 40.

What started out as another mission to better one of his best friends turned into one of the most memorable nights of Smoltz's life. His ability to once again out duel Glavine and lead the Braves to a momentum-building 2-1 win over the Mets at Turner Field on Thursday night produced an emotionally-charged postgame ovation that he'll never forget.

The majority of the 36,660 fans who had come out to see two Atlanta legends battle each other were pleased to see the Braves claim another series victory, which moved them to within 1 1/2 games of the Mets in the National League East standings. But the heartfelt and impressive display of gratitude they showed was aimed toward Smoltz, who had just captured the 200th win of his career.

"It's pretty neat," said Smoltz, who surrendered seven hits in seven scoreless innings. "It's just a number. But it's a nice number and I think everybody contributed in an incredible way."

On this night, the offensive contributions came from Jeff Francoeur, who had a first-inning sacrifice fly, and Matt Diaz, who began the second inning with an opposite-field homer.

Then, to wrap things up after the Mets had put runners on second and third with just one out, was the dependable Bob Wickman, who allowed the home crowd to roar after getting Jose Reyes to end things with a harmless infield pop fly.

But dating back to 1988, when they first joined each other in Atlanta's rotation, it's been Glavine who has contributed in terms of the fact that he seemingly always brings out the best in Smoltz. When they were teammates, they were determined to better the other's performance and that same determination has been evident each of the four times they've opposed each other.

"There's something special about knowing that the other guy is going to battle harder than you or just as hard," said Smoltz, who has seen the Braves win each of the four career games, including three this year, that he's been pitted against Glavine.

"I can't say who I beat for my 200th [win]," Glavine said. "But I'm sure John will remember who he beat for his 200th."

-- Mets starter Tom Glavine

When Kelly Johnson botched Shawn Green's potential double-play grounder in the ninth inning, it looked like Smoltz might have to wait for his milestone. But Wickman responded by allowing just one unearned run while retiring the next three batters. When shortstop Edgar Renteria secured Reyes' pop fly, Smoltz unexpectedly came out of the dugout to hug many of his teammates and enjoy the wave of emotions provided by the fans.

"I don't come out for many different things," Smoltz said. "But I wanted to come out and show my appreciation for what the [crowd] had done. They elevated the game today for us and for me. My fastball was the best I've had in a long time. The feeling in the stands was pretty neat."

Smoltz, who becomes the first pitcher to record both 200 wins and 150 saves in a career, has simply registered 14 consecutive scoreless innings against the Red Sox and Mets. All of this has come since he dislocated his right thumb on May 14, the day before his 40th birthday.

"I wanted to come out and show my appreciation for what the [crowd] had done. They elevated the game today for us and for me. My fastball was the best I've had in a long time. The feeling in the stands was pretty neat."

-- John Smoltz

"He's one of those guys that's highly competitive," Cox said. "He's a manager's dream to have on your team. ... He's been a delight to have."

The Braves will say that the night's most important development was winning a third consecutive series against the Mets. But down the road, the night will primarily be remembered because of the fact that Smoltz reached his milestone while going against one of those close friends who has always been able to bring out the best in him.

"This one, the script couldn't have been written any better," Chipper Jones said.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bobzilla Reactivated

 

5-16-07: If there was anything positive about the Braves trip to Washington this week, it was the return of Bobby Wick on Wednesday evening.

With Atlanta trailing the Nats 6-4 in the eighth, Bobby Cox chose to ease the Wickster back into his role in this minimal-pressure situation.

Bob responded by retiring his three guys in order with 3 fly ball outs-Ryan Church to right field, Austin Kearns to right center and Brian Schneider to left. In his first appearance in the month of May, Bobzilla looked his old efficient self, throwing 21 pitches to retire the side in order. He seemed to show no effects from the back strain that sidelined him on Aril 30th.

With Mike Gonzales replacing him on the disabled list with elbow trouble, it was a sight for sore eyes to see Bob Wickman back in action. With the Braves dropping 3 0f 4 to Washington and heading to Boston to begin interleague play, his team sure needs him now. J.L.

 

Bobby Wick lands on the DL

Sore back the culprit in Bob's struggles

5-1-07: Well, we all knew something was wrong with the Big Guy. I suspected it was his back from seeing him struggle with back pain in Cleveland, and I prayed it wasn't his arm. When he arched his back a couple of times on the mound in Tuesday's win (which he shouldn't have been in), that kind of tipped me off. He always just worked it out before, and probably would have this time if he wasn't overused so much this week in games that the rest of the bullpen should have been closing out. I could blame Bobby Cox for wearing out Bob this early in the season (pitching him in Friday's 9-4 game in Colorado was just plain dumb), but the Wickster himself should have come clean about the injury. Let's hope everyone learned their lessons well and that the return of Bobzilla in a couple of weeks will be a blockbuster success. Here's Mark Bowman with all the brutal details:

ATLANTA -- Based on the dominance that he'd previously shown, it was becoming apparent that something wasn't right with Bob Wickman.

This was confirmed on Monday afternoon, when the Braves placed him on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in the upper right portion of his back. He has felt some discomfort for the last couple of weeks. But the ailment definitely affected him in his past three appearances, two of which resulted in blown save opportunities.

"I just wasn't able to finish my pitches and I believe the last couple of games, I was hurting the team more than I was helping it," said Wickman, who issued six walks and allowed five earned runs while totaling just 1 2/3 innings in his past three appearances.

Before these three appearances, Wickman had converted each of his six save opportunities and worked 9 2/3 scoreless innings. Last year with the Braves, he posted a 1.04 ERA and issued just two walks in 26 innings. Along the way, he converted 18 of 19 save opportunities.

"You pitch enough, you're going to have aches and pains," said the 38-year-old Wickman, who has made 790 career appearances. "It's just a little tendonitis up there and hopefully we can work it out in 15 days."

While Wickman is out, Braves manager Bobby Cox says that he'll use both Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez in the closer's role. Gonzalez has allowed two hits in the three innings he's worked since learning that there wasn't any structural damage in his left elbow.

" Wickman's first blown save came Wednesday, when he entered the ninth inning against the Marlins with a three-run lead and the bases loaded. Two nights later, he was surprised to be brought into a game in which the Braves held a five-run lead against the Rockies.

After surrendering two hits and issuing two walks, he asked to be removed from the Colorado contest. Fortunately, with the potential tying run at first base, Peter Moylan retired the next batter and prevented what could have possibly been three straight blown saves for Wickman, who wasted a two-run lead on Sunday.

Wickman's appearance on Sunday was his fifth in a span of eight days. But he says the workload had nothing to do with the discomfort that he's feeling in his back. "Some days you go out there and it wasn't as bad and some days you go out there and it was bad," said Wickman, who admits his stubbornness prevented him from telling the Braves about his back until Sunday. Mark Bowman

A Hard Days Night

Hudson, Wick falter against Marlins in 9th Inning meltdown

Okay, It’s not all that bad. Every team has at least one game like this per year. I have total confidence in Bob’s ability to bounce right back-I’ve seen this a dozen times before.  The good news is that it’s early, the Braves are 5 games over .500 and on their way to Coors Field, one of Bobby’s favorite ballparks. He says there’s a waterfall out near the bullpen that he likes-I guess it keeps your friendly neighborhood Bobzilla in a tranquil and reflective mood until needed. Here’s Mark Bowman’s account of the game; then I’m up…

 MIAMI -- For eight innings, Brian McCann felt like he was catching one of the greatest games he'd ever seen pitched. Then in a span of about 10 minutes, he found himself and the rest of his Braves teammates swallowing the toughest loss they've encountered during this young season.

With a blink of an eye, Tim Hudson's masterpiece was ruined by a feisty Marlins bunch that tallied four ninth-inning runs and claimed a 4-3 win over a demoralized Braves club at Dolphin Stadium on Wednesday night.

"In the ninth inning, anything can happen," said Braves closer Bob Wickman, who suffered just his second blown save in the 25 opportunities that he's had with the Braves. "That ninth inning, some people can pitch in and some people can't, because so much happens. Tonight, the worst happens."

Thus, a three-run ninth-inning lead certainly seemed safe right up until the point that the Marlins shot the gaps and notched three straight singles to begin the ninth against Hudson. That prompted the entry of Wickman, who immediately surrendered a Miguel Olivo two-run double.

"You can't throw any better than that," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Hudson. "He dominated the whole ballgame and he got three straight ground balls in the ninth and not one was close to anybody. It was the most amazing thing."

After an intentional walk and strikeout, Wickman's bad luck began with Alfredo Amezaga's game-tying RBI single that landed just over the heads of a drawn-in infield. That 90-foot bloop single was followed by Brian McCann's inability to hold a 2-1 fastball to Dan Uggla. The pitch went to the screen, easily allowing Olivo to race home and cap a ninth inning the Braves want to soon forget.

"I just dropped it," McCann said. "I'm not going to make excuses. You've got to catch it."

After the game, McCann approached Wickman and said, "My bad." The veteran closer, who had been perfect in his first six save opportunities this year, let his 23-year-old catcher know that there was no reason for him to feel discouraged.

"All I had to do was get three outs before they scored three runs," Wickman said. "At worst make it a tie game, not a win."

As they lamented the loss, many of the Braves were willing to shoulder the blame. Kelly Johnson's third leadoff homer of the season, combined with a Chipper Jones solo homer, gave Hudson a two-run lead before he threw a pitch. But the only other damage the Marlins incurred came courtesy of Matt Diaz's second-inning homer off Scott Olsen, who ended up allowing just the three earned runs over eight innings.

Hudson had thrown 106 pitches through the first eight innings. But there was no doubt that he was going to pitch the ninth against the Marlins, who had scored just one run in the previous 15 innings he'd pitched against them this year. The first three batters he was scheduled to face had combined for just one hit in nine at-bats against him on the evening. His 10th career shutout seemed imminent.

But as soon as Miguel Cabrera, Cody Ross and Aaron Boone opened the ninth with three straight singles, there was a sense that trouble lurked. Wickman had surrendered just six hits in the 9 2/3 scoreless innings he'd completed to begin the season.

"I couldn't have put Wicky in a worse situation," Hudson said. "It's tough enough to go out there and close ballgames. I just put him in a bad spot. I felt like I could go up there put up a zero and get us a win. I just left some pitches up in the zone."

Through the first eight innings, Hudson had pinpoint accuracy with his split-finger fastball and sinker. Even when the Marlins recorded two hits in both the third and fifth innings, there never seemed to be much cause for concern, because the Braves ace was in total control.

"Huddy was unbelievable," McCann said. "That was the best I've ever seen anybody pitch. His performance tonight was amazing." Some would say the same about this ninth inning. Mark Bowman

 

Wick's a Winner!

Bobzilla notched his first WIN as a Brave in fine fashion in today's thrilling extra inning opener in Philly. Bobby got into some trouble (yeah, so-what's yer point?) with two outs before he got Chase Utley to foul-pop himself out swinging at that sloppy mess that only the maestro can throw. Ex-Indian and Wickster buddy Chad Paronto gets his first save ever! Thrills! Chills! Read all about it...

PHILADELPHIA -- When Edgar Renteria's career is complete and he looks back on the greatest clutch hits he's registered, there's a chance he might overlook the two pivotal homers he hit at Citizens Bank Park on Monday afternoon.

But when reminiscing about his greatest Opening Day moments, it will be nearly impossible for him to forget about the game-tying and game-winning homers that he delivered in the 5-3, 10-inning win the Braves recorded over the Phillies to begin this 2007 season.

"Every time he comes to bat and the game is on the line, he comes through," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "He did it twice today."It was McCann's two-run fourth-inning homer that afforded the Braves their only offense until Renteria ruined a sparkling performance by Phillies starter Brett Myers by drilling an 0-2 fastball high over the center-field wall for an eighth-inning solo homer.

With this homer, Renteria reduced some of the heat Kelly Johnson would have felt, and also ensured John Smoltz would finally escape an Opening Day start without a loss. As for his two-run, 10th-inning shot off Ryan Madson, that's the one that gave the Braves reason to celebrate a win that they hope provided a foreshadowing of things to come.

"An extra-inning ballgame, I think it's a great start," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who saw his bullpen keep the Phillies scoreless for the final four innings. "Either team could have won it with one swing, and we happened to be the first club that swung it and got ahead."

Ironically, Renteria didn't actually go to the plate in the 10th inning looking to swing. Johnson had drawn a leadoff walk and the situation called for a bunt. But the Braves' All-Star shortstop fouled off two bunt attempts and found himself facing a 2-2 count before Madson delivered a lazy slider that stayed up in the zone.

"I tried to put the ball in play and got lucky that the ball went out," said Renteria, whose greatest clutch hit is still the game-winning 11th-inning single that gave the Marlins their 1997 World Series victory over the Indians.

Renteria's sixth career multihomer performance salvaged a strong Smoltz effort and gave the reconstructed bullpen reason to feel good about the stinginess that they displayed. After Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano and Bob Wickman kept the Phillies scoreless for three innings, sinkerballer Chad Paronto worked a perfect 10th inning to register his first career save.

"We need to feel like whenever we're tied, we're going to win the game," Chipper Jones said. "Last year, it was so tough. We blew 29 saves, and it was tough on the psyche of the ballclub. But a few of these [close wins] can turn that psyche around."

There are still 161 games left in the regular season and still a lot to prove. But this game was scripted in the same manner the Braves had envisioned when they rebuilt their bullpen with the offseason additions of Gonzalez and Soriano.

According to script, they received six solid innings from Smoltz, who allowed three earned runs and eight hits -- six of which were recorded with two outs. Then, after his control problems allowed the Phillies to place runners on second and third with nobody out, Gonzalez escaped the seventh inning unscathed with the help of two consecutive strikeouts of Shane Victorino and the ever-dangerous Ryan Howard.

After Victorino directed a two-out double to left in the ninth inning, Wickman elected to intentionally walk Howard in favor of pitching to Chase Utley, who ended the threat with a harmless groundout.

One inning later, Chad Paronto needed just 10 pitches to secure the lead Renteria's second homer had brought. Paronto's ability to come through in this pressure-packed situation only increases the belief that the Braves have the game's deepest bullpen. 4-2-2007

Wickman on pace to win 162!

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Braves come back again to upend Phillies in 11

PHILADELPHIA -- Two games into the season, it's already become apparent that the resilient Braves are more than willing to utilize their power to take advantage of what appears to be a very suspect Phillies bullpen.

Just like on Opening Day, this one required extra innings. Fortunately for the Braves, Scott Thorman was able to provide his best Edgar Renteria impersonation by providing the power that would equate to another victory and at the same time create further doubts regarding the Phillies bullpen.

Thorman's 11th-inning solo homer off Ryan Madson delivered the Braves to a 3-2 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night and salvaged a performance that provided indication that Tim Hudson will be much different than he was last year.

Last year, we're probably on the losing end of these two games," said Hudson, who was effectively wild while throwing 53 of his 92 pitches for strikes. "You've got to be realistic. We didn't have the guys to come in and shut the door like we do this year."

Bob Wickman shut the door on this one with a scoreless 11th inning that gave him his first save of the season. But it was Macay McBride who may have gotten the most crucial out. After entering with runners on second and third and two outs in the 10th, the young left-hander needed just one pitch to get Howard, the reigning National League MVP, to hit a harmless grounder to second base.

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Smoltz, Braves bounce back against Glavine and Mets

"It was vintage, probably about what everybody expected," Jones said of this latest matchup between the two former teammates. "I just wish it would have been about 80 degrees and nice so that both teams could have truly strutted their stuff."

After Mike Gonzalez surrendered a run to the Mets in the seventh, Rafael Soriano worked a perfect eighth, setting the stage for Bob Wickman to notch his second save with a scoreless ninth that ended with some drama. With two outs and runners at second and third base, Green smacked a line drive that was caught by first baseman Craig Wilson.

"I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that every game I pitch in is going to be tight," said Smoltz, who saw the Mets strand 10 runners during his six innings and a total of 13 on the afternoon.

-----------------------------------

Kyle Davies solid in spot start

ATLANTA --Kyle Davies had hoped to make the Braves rotation out of spring training, but when he didn't, he didn't grouse. He waited his turn, which came Sunday, and delivered, holding the Mets to two runs over 6 2/3 innings.

Instead of allowing the Mets to leave town with a series victory, the Braves made sure to show their division rivals some of the late-inning magic that has allowed them to get this season off to a successful start.

Consecutive eighth-inning RBI doubles by Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur enabled the Braves to claim a 3-2 comeback victory over the Mets at Turner Field on Sunday afternoon

Bob Wickman pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 250th save and his third of the season. Setup man Rafeal Soriano (1-0) faced one batter and induced a flyout with runners at the corners to end the eighth for his first Braves win.

Bobby Wick rolls on with save #250!

Thanks to Bob, GS #229 not so sad after all

Back in April of last year, when Bob was nearing Doug Jones all time Indians save record, I asked Bob for a baseball. About the only thing I hadn’t gotten from him in his 6 years with the Tribe was a ball from one of his saves. I knew that he almost always threw them to one of the little kids behind the dugout after he closed out a game, and when I asked him what he’d do with the ball that tied his buddy Jonesy, he said, “Just toss it to a kid, I guess.” When I told him I knew a 44-year-old kid that would love to have it for his Wickman collection he agreed to save it for me. I figured it wasn’t that significant a ball to ask for as say, the next one that broke the record.

Well, true to form, Bob’s April 28th save against the Rangers at Jacobs Field that tied the record was once again a drama filled nail-biter until Ronnie Belliard snow-coned the final out. I saw Bobby tossing balls to the kiddies afterward and figured that he forgot. Oh, well - understandable under the circumstances.

The next day when we talked about the game, I mentioned that I guess he forgot the ball in all the excitement. “I got it,” he laughed. “I put in my glove for you. Don’t worry, you’ll get it!” I felt dumb for doubting him.

After that the season started going downhill for the Tribe at an alarming rate. They could hardly get the ball to Bob in May, and then he had an awful June with horrific blown games against Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cincy. Then with the trade in July, I kind of forgot about the ball altogether.

My “Great Save #229” article of July shows the bitterness that I felt writing of my friend’s last save in an Indians uniform:

 

To top it off, it was in stinkin’ California. I couldn’t even be at his last game.

Anyway, so I get this little box in the mail the other day. People are always sending me Wickman stuff, and I wondered what this was.

The note inside said, “Joe, this was all I could come up with. Bob.” The ball from the April 28th game must have gotten lost in the shuffle somewhere along the line.

Talk about shock and awe when I unwrapped a baseball from Bob-The one from his last save and last game as an Indian! All decked out with the July 19th date, 255th and final appearance designation and game score in red, white and blue ink! It even had a big scuff mark on it where his last pitch hit the dirt-the one that Vladamir Guerrero swung at for strike 3 and was thrown out at first base!

I felt like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” unwrapping his official Red Rider BB gun on Christmas morning. ALL HE COULD COME UP WITH?! This should be in his trophy case- I would have never asked him for such a memento of his career. There are just too many milestones wrapped up in this baseball.

So with this, I guess I’ve turned the page on my anger and resentment over Bob’s trade. With the pictures coming out of the Braves camp this year, I can see the smile that was missing from his face at last year’s spring training is back where it belongs.

Through all the major upheavals that he went through in his life last year, Bob Wickman never forgot a small promise he made. One that will always be huge to me. The Greatest Ballplayer Ever strikes again. J. Ladd 2/26/07