Notes: Diaz likes having low number

Notes: Diaz likes having low number

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Matt Diaz arrived at Braves camp earlier this week, he knew he'd never had a better chance to make an Opening Day roster. His confidence was strengthened when he saw that his jersey number was 23.

During his two previous big-league camps, in 2004 with Tampa Bay and 2005 with Kansas City, he was assigned Nos. 99 and 74, respectively.

"If the old adage is true..." said Diaz in reference to the long-standing baseball belief that players with the traditional lower numbers have the best chances of making the team.

Despite being one of the best hitters in the Minors each of the past three seasons, Diaz has received minimal playing time at the big-league level. That could change this year if he proves himself in his first camp with the Braves. The right-handed hitter, who will be 28 on March 3, is competing to earn a platoon role in left field.

A first team All-American at Florida State University, Diaz once had much greater aspirations. But having played just 48 games in the Majors since being drafted by the Devil Rays in the 17th round of the 1999 draft has led him to realize he must take whatever opportunity is presented.

"Three years ago, I would have really struggled with [not being an everyday player], because I didn't know," Diaz said. "But I've been blessed during my [big-league] callups to tag along with some guys, to see what their routine is in that situation."

Diaz, 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, was obtained in a Dec. 19 trade with the Royals. He could share time in left field with Ryan Langerhans and provide the Braves a capable right-handed bat off the bench.

"He looks like a hitter," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's pretty impressive. His mechanics look really sound to me."

In 749 Minor League games, Diaz has hit .315 with a .487 slugging percentage. He is the Devil Rays' all-time Minor League leader with 190 doubles and 789 extra-base hits.

Diaz hit .281 while registering a big-league career-high 89 at-bats with the Royals last year. Along the way, he hit .370 and produced a .463 on-base percentage against left-handed pitchers.

"I'm a gap-to-gap guy," Diaz said. "I try to drive the ball to all fields and put solid contact on the ball more often than not."

Diaz's chances of starting this year in the big leagues are enhanced by his ability to be an emergency catcher. He was recruited to Florida State as a catcher and began playing the position again in the Instructional League with the Royals last fall.

"I'm a jack of all trades, master of none," Diaz said.

New-look Remlinger: Since Mike Remlinger left Atlanta after the 2002 season, he's added a few pounds and a few shades of gray hair. But the change that is going to help him make the big-league roster is the addition of a breaking ball that he never had to use during those successful years he previously enjoyed with the Braves.

Remlinger, a non-roster invitee who is trying to prove his career isn't complete, has been working on a curveball during the first week of camp. When he posted a 1.99 ERA during his All-Star campaign in 2002, Remlinger strictly used his fastball and changeup.

After having his shoulder surgically repaired after the 2003 season, Remlinger, who will be 40 on March 23, hoped he had a few more productive years ahead of him. The veteran left-handed reliever began last year strong, but his fatigued arm forced the Red Sox to release him in late August.

Without the fastball he once possessed, Remlinger needs another weapon, and the curveball may be the answer. Cox was impressed with the way the veteran hurler threw it on Thursday.

During Remlinger's 2002 season, his changeup made him even more effective against right-handers than he was vs. left-handers. With the curveball, Cox could feel even more comfortable using Remlinger in any situation.

"We always used him against righties," Cox said. "If the curve is going, we can do anything [with him]."

Remlinger is facing an uphill battle in his attempt to earn a roster spot. Fellow left-handed relievers John Foster and Macay McBride are also enjoying strong camps.

Sullen Canuck: As Pete Orr watched Canada's men's hockey team suffer a 2-0 loss to Russia in the Olympic quarterfinals on Wednesday, he tried every rally routine that came to mind. But nothing worked, and he was forced to live with the misery produced by the upset.

Orr, a native Canadian who will play for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic, faced the ridicule of many of his teammates. Ironically, Jeff Francoeur, who is nicknamed Frenchy, produced most of the jabs.

"I gave them the frown face so that they'd leave me alone," said Orr, who wouldn't go as far as to admit tears were shed after the game.

Braves bits: Chuck James, who had a sore back on Wednesday, resumed throwing on Thursday. ... While playing a round of at Isleworth Golf and Country Club on Wednesday afternoon, Adam LaRoche nearly beat two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen. LaRoche carded a 75 and Janzen a 72. ... Former Braves announcer and current TNT announcer Ernie Johnson Jr. announced on Wednesday that he has had follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for the past two years. The low-grade cancer is treatable, but not curable.

Seventeen players signed: Francoeur heads a list of 17 Braves that have agreed to terms on one-year contracts.

The list also includes The list also includes Jose Ascanio, Brad Baker, Blaine Boyer, Josh Burrus, Lance Cormier, Joey Devine, Luis Hernandez, James Jurries, James, Anthony Lerew, Macay McBride, Orr, Brayan Pena, Tony Pena, Martin Prado and Scott Thorman.

LaRoche and Brian McCann will likely come to terms on their one-year deals in the near future.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.