08/10/2003 7:36 PM ET
Braves notes: Back to health
As Reynolds' back improves, so do his numbers
ST. LOUIS -- If Shane Reynolds' family needed a gallon of milk at this time last year, he would have been unable to complete this simple task.
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
After having surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his back on June 13 of last year, Reynolds was told by doctors that he shouldn't drive a car for two months or lift anything that weighed more than a couple of pounds for four months.
It wasn't until late October last year that Reynolds was given permission to begin the physical rehabilitation process that has enabled him to resume pitching this year. There have been some trying times over the past few months, but it does appear this former All-Star hurler has come a long way and is on the right track.
"You've got to remember, I'm coming off major back surgery," Reynolds said. "It takes time for somebody to come back from something like that. I can honestly tell you, I still wasn't ready in Spring Training."
Maybe that's why the Astros made the shocking decision to release Reynolds on March 28, a move that forced him to find a different employer for the first time since Houston had drafted him in the third round of the 1989 draft.
But Reynolds didn't sulk and instead continued working out on a regular basis to ensure he would be ready when another big-league team called. That team ended up being the Braves, who on April 10 acquired the free agent right-hander to fill the void created by Paul Byrd's ailing right elbow.
Reynolds' 5.48 ERA will show that it has been a season filled with some struggles. But Reynolds knew there would be some trying times and that he wouldn't magically have that form that helped him to win 19 games in 1998 and be one of the pitchers Braves manager Bobby Cox selected for the 2000 All-Star Game.
"You've seen the way I've pitched over the years," Reynolds said. "I've got to be at 100 percent to beat these guys. If I'm not at 100 percent, it's going to be a long, tough road for me."
When Reynolds went 1-2 with an 8.87 ERA in five June starts, it looked like he might not see the end of the season with the Braves. But as his back continues to improve, so have his numbers.
In the seven starts following that trying month, Reynolds went 4-3 with 4.53 ERA. Over his past three starts, he is 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA.
"I think it's gotten to where I'm not thinking about my back anymore," Reynolds said. "At the start of the season and during Spring Training, I couldn't say that. After you have a surgery like that, you're going to think about it and wonder how it's going to react."
Reynolds began feeling the discomfort in his back just before the 2000 All-Star break and battled the pain until he began feeling numbness in his right leg -- the leg he uses to push off the rubber -- last year. It remains to be seen if this 35-year-old hurler can return to his successful form. But Reyonlds remains optimistic that better days are in his future.
"There's a chance once everything works it way out, I could be even better than I was before I started having trouble with my back," Reynolds said. "I know in the second part of 2000 and in 2001 and 2002, it was just a battle to go out there. I'm finally starting to feel better and not worry about it anymore."
Hodges ready to return: Braves manager Bobby Cox said Sunday that Trey Hodges will be activated from the disabled list Tuesday. The rookie right-handed reliever was disabled July 28 with a right elbow strain.
"I'm ready; this has been driving me nuts," Hodges said of being on the disabled list. "Some big improvements were made. I didn't know how tight it was until I had the time to do all the treatment and stretching."
It was obvious the elbow was affecting Hodges. After allowing one earned run over the span of 17 appearances that beganApril 30 and ended June 13, he was charged with 17 earned runs in the 14 appearances that preceded his move to the disabled list.
When Hodges is activated, the Braves will need to send one of their relievers back to Triple-A Richmond. Will Cunnane, who hasn't made an appearance since being promoted Wednesday to replace the injured Darren Holmes, seems the likely candidate.
Down on the Farm: Single-A Myrtle Beach's Andy Marte, who is considered by some to be the organization's top prospect, was named the most exciting player in the as well as best fielding third baseman in a poll of Carolina League managers by Baseball America. ... Richmond's Andy Pratt was voted as having the International League's best breaking ball in a similar poll conducted by the publication.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.