ATLANTA (AP)—Now that John Smoltz is going to be a closer when healthy, the Braves will need to find another starter for the rest of the season.
They may have found one in Jo-Jo Reyes.
Reyes gave up one run in 5 1-3 innings in his 2008 debut, and Atlanta broke open a close game with a six-run seventh to beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-1 Saturday night.
Reyes (1-0), recalled from Triple-A Richmond, gave up four hits and one run in 5 1-3 innings. He walked three and struck out five.
“He’s in John Smoltz’s spot, so I say he’s pretty important,” Chipper Jones said. “The kid can pitch here. There’s no doubt about it. He’s got the stuff to pitch here. The only question is can he stay in the strike zone consistently.”
Control problems hurt Reyes as a rookie last season, when he was 2-2 with a 6.22 ERA in 11 games, including 10 starts. He worked with pitching coach Roger McDowell on improving his footwork on the mound and maintaining more control in his delivery.
Reyes pitched around two fifth-inning walks and was ahead in the count more often against the Reds.
“He can be a big shot in the arm for us, with the news of Smoltzie,” catcher Brian McCann said. “He’s got the stuff to succeed at this level.
“I think he feels like he belongs. You know, when you first come up you don’t know where you fit in. He comes up this time, his confidence is through the roof.”
McDowell said Reyes was “very, very aggressive.”
“When we broke camp there were guys who were here last year that were going to be in Richmond,” McDowell said. “We’ve had some injuries, so the ability of those guys to come in and stick and fill a need was vital.”
Reyes said he felt more comfortable after struggling to control his adrenaline last year.
“I’ve been here before, so I’m kind of getting used to it now,” Reyes said.
The Reds had only four hits despite manager Dusty Baker’s attempt to shake up the lineup.
“It’s the same players,” Baker said. “We couldn’t score runs to get the game close.”
Ken Griffey Jr., hitting second for the first time since 2005, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Reds starter Matt Belisle (1-2) gave up eight hits and two runs in 5 1-3 innings.
The Braves led only 2-1 on a double by Jones in the first and Yunel Escobar’s single in the fifth before sending 10 batters to the plate in the big seventh inning.
Ryan Freel’s speed helped give the Reds their only run. Freel led off the sixth with a single. Freel stole second on Ken Griffey Jr.’s strikeout and then stole third before scoring on Brandon Phillips’ single to center. Phillips also scored second.
Reyes was lifted after walking Joey Votto. Ohman struck out Adam Dunn with runners on second and third to end the inning. ^Notes: Smoltz, who is on the DL with a shoulder injury, was honored in the middle of the third inning for his 3000th career strikeout on April 23. General manager Frank Wren and Cox joined Smoltz, who received a video tribute and a standing ovation. … Braves RHP Peter Moylan had to put an early end to a bullpen session before the game as he tested his strained right elbow. He will be examined by team doctors Sunday and could face season-ending surgery. … Infielder Brent Lillibridge was optioned to Richmond to clear a roster spot for Reyes. … Jones was 2-for-4 and is hitting .421.