Notes: Braves comfortable with bullpen
Keeping Wickman, acquiring duo has helped fuel hot start
WASHINGTON -- After a season filled with bullpen troubles last year, the Braves made some offseason moves to fix the problem.
The Braves traded for left-hander Mike Gonzalez and right-hander Rafael Soriano and re-signed closer Bob Wickman, whom they got in a deal with the Indians during last season. All have helped shore up the back end of the bullpen and been a big reason the Braves jumped off to an 8-4 start.
"It's great to have three aces down there," said Braves manager Bobby Cox."
Gonzalez came to the Braves from Pittsburgh in the deal that saw Atlanta give up power-hitting first baseman Adam LaRoche. The left-hander was the Pirates' closer last year but shifted into a setup role this season. He's 0-0 with a 2.84 ERA in seven games this season.
"He had no problem with [the change]," Cox said. "He just wanted to win games."
The Braves got Soriano from Seattle in a deal for Horacio Ramirez. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 5.79 ERA plus one save in six games. He's also working in a setup role behind Wickman.
Wickman re-signed with the Braves after coming over via a July trade. He has remained the closer and is 1-0 with an 0.00 ERA and three saves in six appearances. The trio has allowed a combined total of five runs in 16 2/3 innings.
Seeing old friends: John Smoltz started Tuesday's game against the Nationals, but he'll see an old friend in his next start, when the right-hander should battle former Braves hurler Tom Glavine on Sunday when Atlanta takes on the Mets in New York.
Fellow Braves starter Tim Hudson knows what that feels like, as he has gone against former Oakland teammate Mark Mulder before and could start against former A's starter and new Giants left-hander Barry Zito at some point this season.
"It's a lot of fun, especially if you have a long history with them on the same team," Hudson said. "You obviously want to win, but you face your former teammates and buddies, you want to win even more so. But at the same time, it's kind of funny. You see the guys on the other side ... and then you see them get in the [batter's] box and it's kind of hard to keep a straight face sometimes when they're trying to hit off of you."
Nearing a record: Cox's ejection after the eighth inning last night was the 125th of his career, and he's now six behind all-time leader John McGraw in that category.
The skipper was tossed after arguing a call where second baseman Chris Woodward was ruled to have missed touching the bag while trying to turn an inning-double play.
It was Cox's first ejection this season.
A good chance: Despite the problems with the aforementioned play, Woodward had a good night in just his second start of the season in the leadoff role.
Kelly Johnson has been the leadoff hitter much of this season, but struggled with a .150 batting average after the Florida series last weekend.
But Woodward fared well in the leadoff spot in Monday's 5-1 loss to Washington, going 2-for-4 and setting up a few rallies even though the Braves couldn't score.
"Winning is the more important thing," Woodward. "You get on for the big boys. That's your whole mind-set. You go up there and try to get something going."
Positive rehab: Reliever Lance Cormier appeared to throw successfully in his bullpen session Tuesday. Team officials confirmed that if Cormier feels all right Wednesday, he'll then throw another session Thursday.
If that works out, Cormier would likely go on a rehab assignment Sunday. Cormier has been on the disabled list with a strained right triceps suffered March 26. Cox said Monday that he's at least 10 more days and possibly two weeks away from returning.
Goodwill Night: The Braves will have a Goodwill Night at Wednesday's home game against the Cubs. Goodwill of North Georgia will set up a donation center in Monument Grove, outside the Turner Field main gate, and fans can make donations and learn about the group's goals.
A moment of silence: Commissioner Bud Selig has requested a moment of silence before all games Tuesday to honor the memory of those killed and affected in Monday's shootings at Virginia Tech. In an unannounced move, the Nationals took the field in Virginia Tech caps in the second inning.
Coming up: Kyle Davies (0-2, 2.70) will go for his first victory of the season when the Braves head back home to take on the Cubs and Carlos Zambrano (1-2, 7.88) on Wednesday at 7:35 p.m. ET. Last Saturday's rainout pushed Davies back to this game, which will be his second start of the season.
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.