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Notes: Davies making his pitches

Notes: Davies learning the art of pitching

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- There's certainly a chance that Kyle Davies will begin this season at Triple-A Richmond. But if he continues to pitch with the command and confidence he's shown over the past week, it will be difficult for the Braves to keep him off their Opening Day roster.

"You've got to have fun out there, and I'm starting to have fun," Davies said after limiting the Phillies to one earned run on three hits in six innings of a 7-4 Braves victory at Bright House Networks Field on Friday afternoon.

Counting the Minor League game he completed last week, Davies has surrendered just two earned runs over the course of his past three starts. During his past two outings, he's kept his hands below his chin during his windup and consequently found the fluidity that was lacking when he was battling his control.

"He was real good," Braves manager Bobby Cox said after watching Davies issue the Phillies just one walk. "He's so much better."

On occasion, Davies is still falling behind too many hitters. He issued a four-pitch walk to Chase Utley in the fourth inning. But two innings later, when he fell behind with a 3-0 count, he battled back and got Shane Victorino to look at a curveball for strike three.

In the past, Davies admits he might have just tried to overpower Victorino with fastballs. But as he's maturing as a pitcher, the confident 23-year-old right-hander is seemingly learning the art of pitching.

"It ultimately comes down to making pitches," Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said. "Before, it was a struggle for him to make those pitches. Now, it's becoming a little easier for him."

Entering Spring Training, Davies was the favorite to win the final spot in the Braves' starting rotation. But that was before Lance Cormier burst on the scene. Including the six innings he completed in a Minor League game earlier this week, Cormier has worked 20 innings, allowing just two earned runs, registering 18 strikeouts and issuing just three walks.

During the 19 innings he's completed, Davies has allowed four earned runs and provided the reminder that he was once considered a can't-miss prospect.

Cox hasn't decided who he'll use in the final spot of his rotation. But Davies realizes there's a chance he'll be forced to start the year at Richmond.

"I think if I go out and pitch, wherever I'll be at is going to be better than me going home to do construction," said Davies, whose father owns a construction company in the Atlanta area. "Wherever it's at is a whole lot better than going home and digging ditches."

Gonzo on his mark: As soon as some started to wonder whether his left elbow was healthy, Mike Gonzalez turned up his adrenaline and has since looked as dominant as he did in 2006, when he converted all 24 of his save opportunities for the Pirates.

Since allowing the Cardinals three earned runs in an inning on March 16, Gonzalez has provided two scoreless appearances. His most recent came Friday, when he registered two strikeouts and allowed the Phillies just one hit.

Cox was certainly pleased with what he saw from Gonzalez. But he was just as excited about the fact that Steve Colyer managed to register three strikeouts in a scoreless eighth inning against the Phillies. The 28-year-old left-hander, who has made 54 career Major League appearances, has registered eight strikeouts and issued no walks in eight innings.

Samson's power gone: Since heeding Cox's request to cut some inches off his stringy blonde hair, Craig Wilson has gone hitless in six at-bats. The last time he was forced to cut his hair this short came last year, when he was traded to the Yankees.

"We all saw what happened there," said a smirking Wilson, who hit .212 in 104 at-bats with the Yankees.

Braves bits: Scott Thorman has been excused from each of the past three games. His pregnant wife was scheduled to be induced near Disney on Thursday. But the Braves haven't received any updates. ... Chipper Jones has doubled each of the past two days and has not been bothered by the sore right oblique muscle that sidelined him for five games. ... Mike Hampton is scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Saturday. He felt no discomfort in his left elbow or left oblique during Wednesday's session.

Coming up: The Braves will play a pair of split-squad road games that start at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday. Tim Hudson will oppose Kenny Rogers in the game against the Tigers in Lakeland, and Buddy Carlyle will face Tom Mastny in the game against the Indians in Winter Haven.

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

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