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Notes: Jo-Jo's kind of so-so

Notes: Jo-Jo's kind of so-so

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jo-Jo Reyes understandably had trouble explaining the outing he had during the Braves' 7-4 loss to the Astros at Disney's Champion Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Now he's hoping that it will be much easier to forget it.

Looking simply at the fact that Reyes surrendered one earned run in two hitless innings might indicate that this wasn't a normal outing. Learning that he achieved this while issuing five walks and recording four strikeouts confirms the oddity of his latest audition for a spot in the Braves' starting rotation.

As for the afternoon's embarrassing moment, it came when Reyes fell to the ground while delivering a pitch with the bases loaded. As his face was nearing the mound's dirt, the 23-year-old southpaw still attempted to heave the pitch toward the plate. It fell way short, prompting home-plate umpire Joe West to signal home a run courtesy of a balk.

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"My foot got caught, and I was just trying to throw the ball, instead of catching myself and seeing if I could get it past the plate," said Reyes, who found the strike zone with just 23 of his 52 pitches.

After the embarrassing balk, Reyes ended his afternoon by throwing four of his next five pitches for strikes and recording consecutive strikeouts of Michael Bourn and Jose Cruz Jr. During that second inning, Reyes struck out three, walked three and threw just 10 of 27 pitches for strikes.

"It could have been a lot worse," Reyes said. "It's a good thing my slider and my curveball were there the last two batters. The fastball just wasn't there today."

When Reyes went 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA in his first seven career starts last year, he issued 19 walks in 30 1/3 innings. Then while going 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in his final three starts, he had just seven walks in 17 innings.

"His stuff is there," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's just off target. We've got to find a way to get him to hit the plate more often. He's not wild, wild. He's just off, and that's what he's got to work on.

"He's so close to being a high-caliber pitcher. He's got all of the pitches."

Smoltz debut set for next Saturday: John Smoltz will make one more appearance in a Minor League game on Monday and then make his Grapefruit League debut against the Rays at Disney next Saturday.

Smoltz has been pleased with the results he's realized while pitching simulated games on the days he'd have been scheduled to pitch in the rotation. The Braves' 41-year-old veteran has been able to work at his pace in a relaxed setting where he's been able to work on many of the offspeed pitches that might have plagued him in previous seasons.

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"This has been one of the best Spring Trainings ever," Smoltz said. "It couldn't have worked out any better."

Trouble in Sarasota: Reyes wasn't the only candidate for one of the final rotation spots who struggled in the Florida winds on Saturday. During the 13-8 split-squad loss the Braves suffered against the Reds in Sarasota, Fla., Buddy Carlyle endured a three-run first inning and Jeff Bennett uncorked three wild pitches in two innings.

Carlyle, who had retired each of the 12 batters he'd previously faced this year, ended up allowing four earned runs and six hits in three innings. As for Bennett, who was making just his second appearance since battling a bad sinus infection last week, he allowed five runs -- three earned -- and three hits in just three innings.

The two unearned runs surrendered by Bennett came after he made an errant throw to the plate after fielding a bases-loaded grounder.

Braves bits: Smoltz was planning to spend Saturday afternoon golfing with his good friend Tiger Woods. They've played multiple times this week as Woods is taking this week off from the PGA circuit. ... Right-handed reliever Blaine Boyer, who worked two scoreless innings against the Astros on Saturday, hasn't allowed a run in six innings. ... Brandon Hicks, a shortstop selected out of Texas A&M in the third round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, hit a two-run ninth-inning homer against the Astros.

Up next: Top setup man Peter Moylan, who has been bothered by some recent soreness in his right elbow, is expected to be among the Braves relievers in Sunday afternoon's game against the Cardinals at Disney's Champion Stadium. Tim Hudson will be making his third Grapefruit League start at 1:05 ET.

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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