10/05/2002 3:00 pm ET
MLBeat: Holmes effective
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Braves right-handed reliever Darren Holmes burst on the scene out of Spring Training this season and immediately established himself as one of their most reliable relievers. The right-hander, who missed all of last year after having back surgery, allowed two earned runs and struck out 14 batters while throwing 15 innings in April.
But as the season progressed, Braves manager Bobby Cox began being more careful with the 36-year-old hurler. Cox ended up giving Holmes a total of 17 2/3 innings during the final two months of the regular season.
The result has been rewarding. Holmes didn't allow an earned run in his last 10 innings during the regular season and struck out 13 while doing so. He has appeared in both of the first two games of the Division Series and allowed just one hit while striking out three of the six batters he has faced.
"Holmes has been dynamite," Cox said. "He's been throwing the ball great."
Holmes, Mike Remlinger, Chris Hammond and John Smoltz give Cox the ability to go to his bullpen in the sixth inning with extreme confidence. The bullpen's 2.60 ERA was the best in the Majors and best ever recorded by a Braves relief corps since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966.
Hammond, who produced a 0.95 ERA in 76 innings this year, allowed two of the three runs the Braves relievers have surrendered in the Division Series. Those runs came immediately after the left-handed setup man strained his neck in Wednesday's Game 1.
After missing Game 2, Hammond threw off the mound before batting practice on Saturday and Cox felt confident he would be available for Saturday's game.
"He felt real good today and wanted to throw on the side a little bit to make 100 percent sure," Cox said. "We feel like he can pitch today."
Bright conditions: With Saturday's Game 3 of the Division Series beginning at 1 p.m. local time, Cox got to Pacific Bell Park Friday morning, in order to see which parts of the field the sunlight might play a factor.
When he realized that left field was going to be most affected, Cox sent Chipper Jones out there to get used to the environment he will be in on Saturday afternoon.
"It's going to be tough, I think, from probably the third inning on," Cox said. "We took a lot of fly balls out there today -- Chipper and some of the coaches. Some of the balls were uncatchable because of that. It's going to be tough for us."
Game time update: Sunday's Game 4 is tentatively scheduled for a 4 p.m. ET start. If the Angels vs. Yankees series ends today, the Braves vs. Giants game will be moved and will be shown on FOX at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its