09/30/2003 7:31 PM ET
Notes: Cox opts for Estrada
ATLANTA -- When Braves manager Bobby Cox turned in his Division Series roster on Tuesday morning, it didn't include the emergency catcher who had been a fixture on his postseason rosters in the past.
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
With Henry Blanco's role as Greg Maddux's primary catcher now obsolete, Cox opted to go with Javy Lopez and Johnny Estrada as his catchers during the first round. If an emergency situation arises, Robert Fick will go behind the plate.
"Blanco was hard to leave off," Cox said while explaining these cuts were just as tough as those made at the end of Spring Training. "He's been here all year. He's a very good catcher."
But Blanco, who has batted .202 since joining the Braves before the 2002 season, can't provide the same kind of offensive capability as the switch-hitting Johnny Estrada, who will likely become Atlanta's starting catcher if Javy Lopez leaves via free agency during the offseason.
"We felt he'd be a good guy off the bench," said Cox of Estrada, who batted .328 with 10 homers and 66 RBIs at Triple-A Richmond.
Over the years, Maddux has utilized the likes of Charlie O'Brien, Eddie Perez, Paul Bako and Blanco as his primary catcher and left Lopez's bat on the bench. But that option evaporated headed into the end of the season with some of the greatest offensive numbers ever produced by a Major League catcher.
Lopez, who ended the season batting .328 with 43 homers and 109 RBIs, was behind the plate for each of Maddux's final three starts this year. The legendary hurler proved he didn't have a problem with the battery by going 2-0 and posting a 1.59 ERA in those games.
When Lopez began catching Maddux, Blanco, who will be a free agent at the end of the year, anticipated the possibility that he wouldn't be included in the postseason plans.
"It's their decision; there is nothing I can do about it," said Blanco. "I'm going to keep working hard, play some Winter Ball and see what happens next year."
Cox also chose to omit Shane Reynolds from his 11-man pitching staff that includes Will Cunnane and Jaret Wright, two August additions to the Braves bullpen.
"Right now we don't need five starters for the first round," Cox said in reference to Reynolds' omission. "We may add him for the next round. Certainly for the World Series we would add a fifth guy and we would knock off a position player or pitcher to accommodate that."
The Braves Division Series roster is as follows:
Pitchers (11) Will Cunnane, Kevin Gryboski, Mike Hampton, Roberto Hernandez, Ray King, Maddux, Kent Mercker, Russ Ortiz, Horacio Ramirez, John Smoltz and Wright
Catchers (2) Lopez and Estrada
Infielders (8) Vinny Castilla, Mark DeRosa, Fick, Julio Franco, Matt Franco, Rafael Furcal, Matt Franco, Julio Franco, Garcia and Marcus Giles
Outfielders (4) Darren Bragg, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones and Gary Sheffield
Ready for debut: Fick always has a way with words. But the easily quotable Braves first baseman didn't have much to say about playing in his first postseason game on Tuesday night.
"I'm not nervous at all personally at about what I'm going to do or not going to do," Fick said. "But team-wise, you know you want to win, so sure you get butterflies before the game. This is baseball. I try to just play the game."
In fact, Fick, who wore an Angels jersey while attending last year's World Series games in Anaheim, believes his family may feel more nerves during the postseason than he will.
"I went and watched [Angels second baseman] Adam Kennedy play in the World Series last year," Fick said. "That's nerve-racking going to watch your best friend play."
Joining Fick as first-time postseason performers will be Cunnane, King, Estrada and rookie Ramirez.
This and that: Castilla said Tuesday that his sprained right middle finger has improved and only bothers him while he is throwing. ... Braves chairman of the board Bill Bartholomay greeted Cubs manager Dusty Baker with a hug before Tuesday's game. Baker played for the Braves from 1972-75, when Bartholomay was the Braves' owner. ... The cover of the Braves' postseason media guide displays a picture of Greg Maddux overlapping the legendary Cy Young. Maddux, who will start Friday's Game 3 at Wrigley Field, broke Young's record of consecutive 15-win seasons by doing it for a 16th straight time this year.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.