Notes: Smoltz to take on Andruw

Notes: Smoltz to face Andruw in exhibition

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While announcing his starting rotation for the Grapefruit League season on Monday, Braves manager Bobby Cox created even more reason to watch next weekend's exhibition game against Andruw Jones and the rest of his teammates from the Netherlands.

Cox announced that John Smoltz will start Sunday afternoon's game against the Netherlands at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. This will be the veteran hurler's first opportunity to face Jones in a game. Neither of the two All-Stars have played for any big-league team other than the Braves.

"We won't pitch to [Jones]," Cox joked, before adding, "with Smoltzie going, you know [darn] well he'll go after him."

Jones will play in the World Baseball Classic with the Netherlands team that will use the Disney facility to train. They'll play their first-round games in Puerto Rico.

The Braves will open the exhibition season on Wednesday, when they host the University of Georgia. Horacio Ramirez will throw the first two innings and be followed by Oscar Villarreal, Sean White, Jose Ascanio and Chris Reitsma.

Cox often uses a number of his younger pitching prospects against college opponents. Last year, five Minor Leaguers combined to no-hit Georgia Tech.

But this year is different, because he wants to get a look at both Reitsma (Canada) and Villarreal (Mexico) before they join their national teams in preparation for the Classic.

Each of the eight Braves players participating in the Classic will travel to their respective team's camp site on Thursday. Jeff Francoeur and Chipper Jones, who will play for Team USA, and Villarreal will all be flying to Arizona.

Andruw Jones won't have to move at all, and Jorge Sosa (Dominican Republic) only has to go across town to Kissimmee. Reitsma, Pete Orr and Scott Thorman, who will all play for the Canadian team, will train in Dunedin, Fla.

Sosa will start the Grapefruit League opener on Thursday against the Dodgers at Vero Beach, John Thomson will start Friday's game at Disney against the Dodgers and Tim Hudson will make his spring debut when he starts Saturday's game against the Astros in Kissimmee.

Lerew continues to impress: Last week, Anthony Lerew announced his desire to win the competition for the closer's role. Since then, the rookie right-hander has continued to impress Cox and the rest of the Braves coaches.

"He's got closer's stuff, I'll tell you that," Cox said. "He has three or four pitches that are above average. It's just a matter of location, getting them down."

Lerew, a 23 year-old hurler who has made just seven appearances in his big-league career, has a fastball that has been clocked as high as 97 mph. But it's his split-finger fastball that may prove to be his greatest weapon.

Although he didn't begin throwing the pitch until late August last year, he has already shown good command with it. He'll make his Grapefruit League debut on Friday against the Dodgers.

"It's one thing to throw it out here and another to throw it in a game," Cox said. "But it's coming."

Another Classic tidbit: Francoeur could find himself as one of Team USA's starting outfielders. Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells, who was expected to start in right field, strained his left quadriceps muscle last week and may not play in the Classic.

Francoeur said he hasn't heard anything from Team USA manager Buck Martinez other than to be ready to do whatever is necessary when the event begins. Martinez spent a little time in Braves camp last week.

If Wells doesn't play, Francoeur, Matt Holliday and Randy Winn are currently the only options to take his place. But Team USA officials would be able to add a replacement if it's determined that Wells can't play.

Supreme vision: Andruw Jones has always been known for the great jumps he gets on balls hit to the outfield. His great instincts have always been credited, but maybe it has something to do with his excellent vision.

During the physical examinations the Braves players were given this past weekend, they were asked to stare at an item in a doctor's hand with one eye. When the item came into view of both of their eyes, they were supposed to let the doctor know.

For most of the players, the doctor took a few steps backward before being asked to stop. With Jones, he walked back nearly 30 feet before the Gold Glove center fielder said it was in view of both eyes.

"I have great vision," Jones said. "I see everything."

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