Questions for the Braves

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Most general managers managers try to acquire one ace during the winter.

Braves GM John Schuerholz went out and got two.

First he dealt one of his top prospects, Jose Capellan, to the Milwaukee Brewers for closer Danny Kolb, who is coming off a 39-save season. Acquiring Kolb allowed the Braves to put closer John Smoltz into their rotation.

And then the Braves dealt lefty Dan Meyer and two other minor leaguers to the Oakland A's for Tim Hudson and signed him last week to a four-year, $47-million US deal.

When a reporter asked Schuerholz earlier this spring if he was looking for another starter, the GM replied: "I don't want to appear to be gluttonous."

Will Smoltz's elbow, which caused him to miss the 2000 season, be able to stand the strain of 200-plus innings and 35 starts? "I'm not shooting for 200 innings, I hope to pitch 230 to 240," Smoltz said.

Will Hudson, who has been on the disabled list in each of the previous two seasons, stay healthy? Hudson had a recurring muscle strain between his hip and rib-cage area. In 2004 he was 12-6 with a 3.53 earned run average. Smoltz and Hudson get the ball before lefty Mike Hampton, who rebounded with a 13-9, 4.28 season, and John Thompson, who was 14-8 with a 3.72 ERA.

The fifth starter will be lefty Horacio Ramirez, who made only nine starts in 2004 before suffering a shoulder injury. Ramirez was 2-4 with a 2.39 ERA.

If he can't go, the Braves would turn to righty Kyle Davies, who was 4-0 with a 2.32 ERA at double-A Greenville and 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA at class-A Myrtle Beach.


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