PHILADELPHIA -- As Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz settles in to watch the Braves' third consecutive postseason appearance, the skies above his team appear cloudless.
The Braves are blessed at the major-league level with baseball's best NL notebook
starting rotation and an everyday lineup with three players with 35 or more homers and 100 RBI each.
And their farm system is teeming with talented players just waiting to step forward and contribute.
"How it [the farm talent] will develop, no one knows," said Schuerholz. "We do know we've got an awful lot of talent to pick from. They're going to be knocking at the door."
Schuerholz, a Baltimore native, began his front-office career in the Orioles' organization in the mid-1960s, when that powerhouse was being constructed in much the same fashion as the Braves now -- through the farm system.
"There were a lot of players with the Orioles back then who had terrific seasons at Triple-A and kept getting sent back down," said Schuerholz. "It happened all the time."
Schuerholz said the organization's prime weakness is a lack of pitching depth throughout the system, since the bulk of Atlanta's rotation came through the system together.
However, Schuerholz said the Braves are so stocked at the everyday slots that they could trade prospects to fill an immediate pitching need, if it arose.
The latest Atlanta hot prospect is shortstop Chipper Jones, who was brilliant in a late-season call-up from the Triple-A Richmond Braves.
Jones, 21, the No. 1 pick in the 1990 amateur draft, is said to be able to play either short, third base or the outfield, and is merely waiting for a place in the Atlanta attack to open, amid speculation the Braves could trade current third baseman Terry Pendleton and move shortstop Jeff Blauser there.
"It's safe to say we could start him [Jones]," said Schuerholz. "I don't think it's safe to say that we will start him next season."
The one that got away
Pitcher Tommy Greene, who will start Game 2 tonight for the Philadelphia Phillies, was a prime prospect in the Atlanta organization until he was dealt to the Phillies with outfielder Dale Murphy in August 1980.
Greene, 26, has become a mainstay of the Phillies' rotation, but ++ hasn't taken to wondering what might have been had he stayed.
"The Phillies gave me the ball and let me get experience on the mound," he said. "In Atlanta, they had so many young pitchers, I was stockpiled. I don't think I would have gotten a chance to prove myself."
Tinkering with the formula
The Phillies became the third team to go from last place to first in successive seasons, in large part because of an infusion of new talent, namely six free-agent signings and a trade for pitcher Danny Jackson.
Manager Jim Fregosi said it didn't take long to figure out the changes would work. "Who knows until you see the fit?" he said. "That's why I thought in spring training we had a chance, because I saw the fit."
Using all your tools
Pitcher Larry Andersen has developed a reputation for being a bit eccentric, and his peculiarities were on display yesterday as he strode in to meet the media before Game 1.
Holding half a cotton swab, Andersen said, "I was nervous enough that when I was coming down here, I brought a Q-Tip and I couldn't decide whether to pick my teeth or clean my ear," said Andersen. "So I broke it in half and used it for both."