Notes: Jordan lands roster spot
Veteran likely to start against left-hander in Game 1
ATLANTA -- Braves manager Bobby Cox gave Brian Jordan an opportunity to prove himself this past weekend against the Marlins, and the veteran outfielder did everything necessary to earn himself a spot on the National League Division Series roster.
When Cox decided to carry just two catchers (Johnny Estrada and Brian McCann) for the Division Series, it allowed him to carry five outfielders. Joining Andruw Jones and Jeff Francoeur in that group are Jordan, Kelly Johnson and Ryan Langerhans.
While Jordan might have been considered a long shot to earn a roster spot a few weeks ago, Cox has enough confidence in the veteran outfielder that he plans to start him in left field during Wednesday afternoon's Game 1 showdown against southpaw Andy Pettitte and the Astros.
"Jordan has been swinging the bat good and he's running good," Cox said. "He can certainly help us."
While he was happy to tell Jordan he'd made the roster, Cox didn't enjoy having to tell Todd Hollandsworth and Dan Kolb that they wouldn't be playing in the best-of-five series against the Astros. Instead of carrying Kolb, Cox opted instead to carry Joey Devine, who gained a spot when Blaine Boyer awoke on Monday morning without feeling in his right arm.
"Just like at the beginning of the season, it's hard to tell guys they haven't made it," Cox said. "It's one of the hardest things you have to do."
When Jordan missed all of July and August because of a sore left knee, it was assumed he wouldn't be able to help the Braves for the rest of the year. But after he returned when the rosters expanded in September, he hit .273 and showed some speed, both offensively and defensively.
"There's no doubt in my mind [I'm ready]," Jordan said. "If I didn't feel like I could do it, I'd tell Bobby to let the other guys play. But, no ... this is what I worked hard for."
Jordan likely will get the starting assignment in the games that Pettitte starts. The left-handed Langerhans, who is one of eight rookies on the postseason roster, will start in left field against Houston's right-handed starting pitchers.
Although he made just four starts in September, Jordan never lost faith that he might be on the postseason roster. When Cox played him in each of the three games of this past weekend's series against the Marlins, he knew that his veteran skipper hadn't lost faith in him.
"This guy is a tremendous manager," Jordan said. "I have nothing but respect for him. He's a patient manager. He's played the game. He knows what guys have gone through. He's more understanding. It's been a fun ride playing for him."
Smoltz still improving: John Smoltz understands the uncertainty regarding his shoulder denied him the opportunity to be the Game 1 starter. But he feels his health is steadily improving and that he'll be fully prepared for his Game 2 showdown against Roger Clemens.
"At this point, it's the playoffs, and I guarantee you won't hear one word about my shoulder being an issue one way or the other," said Smoltz, who has experienced stiffness in his shoulder over the past three weeks.
Smoltz, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 23, said that every day since Sunday his shoulder has provided less discomfort. He is confident the stiffness was a result of the fatigue he developed after throwing 229 2/3 innings this year.
This will be Smoltz's first postseason start since facing Clemens in Game 4 of the 1999 World Series. It also will be one that pits the game's winningest active pitcher (Clemens, 341 wins) against the pitcher who owns the most career postseason wins (Smoltz, with 14).
"I'm not pitching against Roger Clemens," Smoltz said. "It sounds good. But I'm pitching against the Houston Astros, and Roger just happens to be a huge part of that. If it was just me pitching against him and him just pitching against me, we'd probably both lead the league in strikeouts."
All five starters included: Cox opted to keep both John Thomson and Horacio Ramirez on his postseason roster. He anticipates using one of the two hurlers to start Game 4.
Tim Hudson will start Wednesday's Game 1 and be followed on Thursday night by Smoltz. Jorge Sosa will start Saturday's Game 3 at Minute Maid Park.
With Thomson and Ramirez, the Braves have a couple options for long relief. Thus, Kyle Davies was left off the roster. He and catcher Brayan Pena will go to the Instructional League to stay fresh in case they are needed for later rounds.
Distraught Boyer: Despite allowing three runs without recording an out against the Marlins on Sunday, Boyer felt his velocity proved that his right arm was healthy. But when he awoke on Monday and couldn't move his arm, he knew he wouldn't be pitching against the Astros.
Instead of giving Kolb, who posted a 12.40 ERA in his final 12 appearances, yet another chance to prove himself, Cox instead opted to replace Boyer with Devine, who has made three of his five career Major League appearances during the past week.
"I'm just very fortunate, very blessed and very excited to be here to have an opportunity to be a part of a wonderful organization," said Devine, who was Atlanta's top draft selection in this past year's draft.
Bothered by a hip flexor, Devine allowed grand slams in both of his first two big league appearances. But in his past three appearances, he's surrendered just one hit and completed three scoreless innings.
Braves prepping for big crowds: Braves senior vice president of sales and marketing Derek Schiller was pleased with the eight percent jump in attendance the team realized during the regular season. With steady sales over the past few days, he's confident the club should also draw good crowds during the postseason.
There is a chance Wednesday afternoon's Game 1 could be sold out and even more hope that the Smoltz-Clemens showdown on Thursday night could draw an overflow crowd.
"We're very optimistic about both games," Schiller said. "But at this point, I think it's way too early for me to predict a sellout."
Because the club is expecting all of its parking lots to be full, it has devised a plan that will allow fans to park at Lakewood Amphitheater for $5 and take shuttles to and from Turner Field.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.