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Notes: DeSalvo feels 'at home again'

Notes: DeSalvo feels 'at home again'

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In a span of 21 pitches at Tradition Field on Monday afternoon, Matt DeSalvo provided a glimpse of why Braves manager Bobby Cox and former Major League reliever Kent Tekulve believe he has the stuff to enjoy a bright future.

While throwing 16 of his 21 pitches for strikes and completing two perfect innings in a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Mets, DeSalvo exorcised the demons he'd created Thursday, when he managed to issue five walks and surrender two hits in 1 1/3 innings against the Dodgers.

"I've never been in the World Series before," said the 27-year-old DeSalvo, who has made just seven Major League appearances. "But there was more pressure on me with the first pitch of [Monday's] first inning than I think I've ever felt before."

Considering he made his Major League debut while starting for the Yankees in front of 47,424 fans at Yankee Stadium last year, this was quite a statement. But given what he'd endured last week, when he felt like a helpless hurler destined for eternal life outside of the Majors, it was understandable why he would feel so much relief when he needed just one pitch to record his first out on Monday.

Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell worked with DeSalvo on his mechanics the past few days. But the young hurler believes the key was to regain the aggression he lacked last week, when he felt he was short-arming his pitches.

"It was like I was at home again and I felt normal," DeSalvo said of Monday's first strike. "The last time out, I had felt completely foreign to myself. I was trying to figure out what I was trying to do. It's a terrible feeling to have."

Tekulve, whose son, Chris, played with DeSalvo at Marietta College, called Cox on Friday to let him know he truly believes DeSalvo could be a successful big league reliever. It was certainly a nice endorsement from the lanky former closer, who owns more than 1,000 career relief appearances.

DeSalvo, who made six starts for the Yankees last year, caught Cox's attention early in camp with his impressive repertoire of pitches.

"All of the pitches are there," said Cox, who remains hopeful DeSalvo can end the control problems that have plagued his career.

Tape-measure shots: Typical of a pitcher, McDowell pointed out that the wind was blowing out during Monday's batting practice. But nevertheless, Braves Minor League catcher Tyler Flowers still put on a show with a couple of tape-measure shots, including one that hit approximately 25 feet up an adjoining field's fence that was located 460 feet from the plate.

MLB.com's Marty Noble has been covering the Mets at this complex for 21 years, and he said he doesn't remember a ball being hit that far.

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"He hits the ball probably as hard as anybody we've got," said Cox, who was including the likes of Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur.

Flowers, who is 6-foot-4 and approximately 230 pounds, has been the camp's most surprising offensive player. While battling a sore knee and playing first base at Class A Rome last year, he hit .298 with 12 homers and a .488 slugging percentage.

While growing up in suburban Atlanta, Flowers was a fan of the Braves and Francoeur, who was a high school legend in the area. When Francoeur hit three homers and showed a 96 mph fastball while saving two games in the 2003 best-of-three state championship series, Flowers was in attendance.

At the time Flowers, who was two years younger and three grades behind in school, was marveling at Francoeur's power. But after a few weeks in big league camp, he's starting to realize that he's now got similar power.

"I'm getting there," Flowers said. "I can at least hang with [Francoeur] in [batting practice] right now."

Good debut: While allowing the Mets one earned run and two hits in two innings, Jo-Jo Reyes didn't hurt his bid to win one of the rotation's final spots. The 23-year-old left-hander, who threw primarily all fastballs, was pleased that he didn't issue a walk.

"He was around the plate the whole time," McDowell said. "He didn't get a whole lot of first-pitch strikes. But that second pitch was usually a strike. He was very aggressive in the strike zone."

Reyes, who was 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in his final three starts last season, says he isn't following his bid to win the rotation's fifth spot. With Chuck James being brought along slowly and Jeff Bennett sidetracked by a sinus infection, it appears Reyes and Jair Jurrjens are battling for the fifth spot.

"I just control my own destiny," Reyes said. "I don't have any clue where I'm at. It's better not to know, I think."

Chipper update: Cox said the team's trainers haven't provided him reason to be concerned about the right hamstring Chipper Jones injured in Sunday's batting practice.

Up next: Tim Hudson will look for more consistency when he starts against the Phillies at Disney's Champion Stadium on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. ET. While surrendering a run in two innings against the Dodgers last week, Hudson wasn't happy with the control of his fastball. This will be first of two times the Braves will face the defending National League East champs in Spring Training.

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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