Notes: Progress encourages Thomson

Notes: Progress encourages Thomson

ATLANTA -- John Thomson knows he's still likely at least a month away from being able to rejoin Atlanta's starting rotation. But he's encouraged by the fact that he's seemingly making progress.

Thomson played catch under the watchful eyes of hand specialist Dr. Gary Laurie on Monday afternoon. Afterwards, Laurie told the veteran hurler that he might be able to begin throwing at a controlled effort off a mound on July 13.

"It's encouraging (because) I'm throwing," Thomson said. "But it's just a matter of how long it's going to be to when I can let one go and not really worry about whether it's going to hurt or not."

When Thomson partially tore the supporting structures surrounding the flexor tendon in his right middle finger on May 16, the early projections were that he'd miss anywhere from two to three months. If all stays the same and he continues to make the same progress, it seems very likely that his return will certainly come before the three-month mark.

"I've just got to wait until it gets better," Thomson said. "There's really not a timetable. I've just got to wait for it to get better."

Mike Hampton, another of the three Braves starting pitchers on the disabled list, told Thomson that he looked to be throwing without any problems during Monday's session. But the veteran right-hander could tell his middle finger still had some healing to do.

"I could tell there was something that wasn't right," Thomson said. "It wasn't hurting, but it doesn't feel comfortable."

If Thomson is still making progress, he'll likely throw 15-20 pitches off a mound before the team heads to New York City next Wednesday. The session will give him and the team a better idea of when he'll be able to return.

Thomson kept his arm strong over the past month by throwing with all of the pressure on his index finger. It's something he's done while messing around in the outfield throughout his career. But his ability to do so could cut some of the time he has to spend on a rehab stint.

Andruw's deception: Andruw Jones' offensive dominance earned him a National League Player of the Month Award on Tuesday afternoon. But his defensive mastery enabled him to make one of the best plays during Monday night's 4-0 victory over the Cubs.

After Todd Hollandsworth drilled a two-out single in the eighth inning, it looked like the Cubs might finally get a runner to third base. But after Jones fielded the ball, Jeromy Burnitz put on the brakes about five steps past second base.

That was enough space to put him in no-man's land. After seeing Burnitz stop, Jones redirected himself, fired to second and easily nabbed the Cubs outfielder for the final out of the inning.

"I knew he was going hard," Jones said. "So as soon as I had the ball, I was going to go to third base. But the moment he stopped and I planted my feet down, I was able to throw it to second base."

Jones, who has won seven consecutive Gold Glove Awards, said he and Marcus Giles have been talking about doing that for the past month. They tried once earlier, but were unable to record an out.

"It has nothing to do with me," Giles said. "It's just a good heads-up play on his part."

Braves bits: Jones was the first Braves player to be named Player of the Month since Fred McGriff in July 1993. Russ Ortiz was named Pitcher of the Month in July of last year. ... Adam LaRoche's two-homer performance on Monday was the second of his career. His first came on Aug. 11 of last year against the Brewers.

Coming up: John Smoltz (9-5, 2.68) will oppose Mark Prior in the third game of a four-game set against the Cubs on Wednesday night. Smoltz, who has won five consecutive starts, could be making his final appearance before the All-Star Game.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.