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World Series 2001
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10/14/2001 07:39 PM ET
Lopez may not catch in NLCS
By Mark Bowman
MLB.com
Braves General Manager John Schuerholz and Manager Bobby Cox watch the Braves work out on Sunday.
ATLANTA -- Javy Lopez donned the catching equipment and caught for about 20 minutes in the bullpen on Sunday afternoon. But don't expect to see the Braves regular catcher playing that position anytime soon.

"I can not catch well," Lopez said. "It hurts too much."

Lopez, who suffered a high left ankle sprain on Sept. 30, had indicated earlier in the day that he thought there was a possibility that he might be able to catch in the upcoming National League Championship Series. But approximately 20 minutes after the workout ended, reality seemed to hit Lopez.

"I just can't see them putting me on the roster if I can't catch," Lopez said. "I know I can hit. But I just don't think I can catch."

Lopez could be used as a pinch hitter in the series. Braves hitting coach Merv Rettenmund believes Lopez is swinging as well as he has all season. The injury has slowed his swing and forced him to stop "jumping at the ball," Rettenmund said.

According to team orthopedist Dr. Joe Chandler, Lopez's improvement is somewhat of a surprise. He said high ankle sprains usually require at least four-to-six weeks of rest.

"These things don't get better fast," Chandler said. "The good part is Javy is tough and this proves it."

Lopez said he expects to attempt to throw to second and run the bases on Monday before the Braves make their final decision on whether he will be on the roster for the NLCS.

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In Lopez's absence, Paul Bako has played admirably. He had seven hits in his final 14 regular season at-bats and was the offensive hero in Game 3 of the NLDS against Houston. His homer, perfectly executed squeeze bunt, and double led the Braves to the clinching 6-2 win over the Astros on Friday.

But Bako was absent from Sunday's workout. He was back home with his pregnant wife in Lafayette, La. Laurie Bako, who is 36 weeks pregnant, had gone into labor on Wednesday but doctors gave her medication to stop her contractions.

Bako came back for Friday's game and Cox expects him to be in Phoenix or Atlanta for the opening of the NLCS on Tuesday. By late Sunday afternoon, the Braves had not heard if Laurie had given birth.

Cox's sister improving: Bobby Cox was at Sunday's workout and said that his sister, Joy Rogers, was showing signs of improvement. Cox's sister suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on Wednesday and by Saturday the Braves skipper said she was able to say his name.

Millwood will throw in Atlanta: Kevin Millwood, who says he will pitch Game 4 of the NLCS, was originally scheduled to pitch in Orlando in the Instructional League on Monday. But instead he will have a throwing session in Atlanta. Millwood said his fear of flying commercially led to his decision to not get on a plane and go to Orlando.

Rettenmund loses father: Braves hitting coach Merv Rettenmund was awoken on Friday morning with news that his father had died. He was at Turner Field throughout Friday's game and did not leave until Friday night to be with his family. Cox said Rettenmund will be with the team for the start of the NLCS.

Mark Bowman is the site reporter for AtlantaBraves.com