Braves beat Tampa Bay in exhibition

The controversial reliever, John Rocker, entered in the sixth inning of Atlanta's 13-5 win over Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday after Kerry Ligtenberg was hit in the face by a ball off the bat of Quinton McCracken.

Until then, the 28,352 fans at Universitario Stadium in Caracas, Venezuela cheered the players in the opener of a two-game exhibition series.

But Rocker, suspended for the first two weeks of the season by commissioner Bud Selig for disparaging foreigners, homosexuals and minorities in a magazine interview, immediately changed their mood when he came in, and fans booed with fervor.

Rocker, who threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning against Detroit earlier this week in his spring debut, allowed three runs and allowed five of six batters to reach.

Entering with a 10-0 lead, he walked Dave Martinez and Jose Canseco, then gave up an RBI single to Steve Cox and a run-scoring double play to John Flaherty.

Herbert Perry followed with an RBI double to left, Bubba Trammell walked, and the Braves replaced Rocker with Scott Sobkowiak.

Of the 26 pitches Rocker threw, just 10 were strikes. He did not speak with reporters before or after the game.

The ball by McCracken grazed Ligtenberg's face and left stitch marks, but the reliever, coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery, was otherwise OK, Braves spokesman Jim Schultz said.

Tampa Bay starter Juan Guzman left after two-thirds of an inning with tightness in his back and will be reexamined on Sunday by Devil Rays physician Dr Koko Eaton.

Brian Jordan put the Braves ahead with a two-run homer off Guzman, and Keith Lockhart went 3-for-6 with four RBIs.

Andruw Jones hit a solo homer in the fifth, his fifth of the spring, as Atlanta outhit the Devil Rays 17-7.

Winner Kevin Millwood allowed one hit in three scoreless innings and struck out three, and six relievers finished the seven-hitter.

Jeff Sparks, who replaced Guzman, allowed three runs and four hits in 1 1-3 innings, and Chris Reitsma was pounded for four runs - two earned - and four hits in one-third of an inning. Bobby Seay allowed three runs and four hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Comments