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[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 3/26/03 ]

Cox shocked by Braves TV shakeup

By DAVID O'BRIEN
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

Vero Beach, Fla. -- Braves manager Bobby Cox was surprised and upset over the shakeup in the team's broadcasting plans, especially the removal of Pete Van Wieren and Skip Caray from games on TBS.

Related:
FORUM: E-mail us what you think of the Braves TV shuffling
Caray, Van Wieren taken off TBS broadcasts

"That's ridiculous," said Cox, who didn't know about Tuesday's announcement before reading a report on the bus ride to Vero Beach Wednesday. "I was completely shocked. We're losing our Vin Scullys."

Caray and Van Wieren, in their 28th seasons with the Braves, will be in the TV booth for only the 36 games on Turner South. Don Sutton and Joe Simpson will handle the duties on the 90 games carried nationally by TBS.

TBS is also changing its fundamental approach to carrying Braves games, moving from a home-team focus to one in which both teams are given equal treatment.

"We have fans nationwide who this is not going to go over well with," Cox said. "What are we going to do, lose our identity now?"

Venafro released

The Braves released left-hander Mike Venafro, cutting the veteran reliever before a Wednesday deadline so they only had to pay him $125,000 of his $500,000 salary.

Players with non-guaranteed contracts waived by 2 p.m. Wednesday were owed only 45 days' pay, one-fourth of their salary.

Venafro, 29, had a 6.30 ERA and .273 opponents' average in eight appearances and allowed 10 runs (seven earned) and three homers in his last three innings.

The other 29 teams declined to claim him on waivers, and the Braves gave him his unconditional release, making him a free agent. He won't be in their organization.

"Unfortunately, he didn't pitch well enough to make our club," assistant general manager Frank Wren said. "We like what we see out of our young pitchers. We have other options."

Pratt headed for Richmond

What was a buoyant spring early on for Andy Pratt is ending on a down note for the rookie left-hander, who was charged with seven runs, four hits and four walks in the first inning Wednesday of a 14-4 loss to the Dodgers.

Pratt walked the first four batters before serving up Fred McGriff's towering grand slam over the grass beyond right field.

The 23-year-old has an 11.57 ERA in eight spring appearances after surrendering nine earned runs over his last 1 1/3 innings.

He needs more work in the minors, but it hasn't detracted from the Braves' bullish view of Pratt's future.

''Good looking young kid," Cox said. "He should be real good. Get another full year under his belt, he'll be ready."

Pratt has pitched in only seven games above the Class AA level and is headed to the starting rotation at Class AAA Richmond.

Maddux ready for opener

Greg Maddux stayed behind at Disney's Wide World of Sports to get his final spring tuneup in a minor league game. Pitching for Greenville against Richmond, he gave up four hits and one run in four innings with a walk and a strikeout.

"Perfect; he's ready," Cox said of Maddux, who will start the season opener Monday afternoon at Turner Field against Montreal right-hander Tony Armas Jr.






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