Notes: Mazzone's melon on the mend

Notes: Mazzone's melon on the mend

NEW YORK -- Everything seemed rather routine for Leo Mazzone as he was watching Horacio Ramirez complete a bullpen session on Friday afternoon at Shea Stadium. Then, suddenly, he was on his knees wiping blood off the top of his head.

"I looked at him and said, 'Oh my God, I think he's dead,'" said Blaine Boyer, who was unable to protect Mazzone from the long fly ball that soared over the left-field wall and struck the highly respected pitching guru on top of his head.

During his 50-homer, MVP-caliber season, Andruw Jones has delivered plenty of anguish to opposing pitchers. But with this long batting practice home run, he delivered some physical pain to a coach on his own team.

When Jones went into the clubhouse on Friday evening, he was putting the blame on rookie Jeff Francoeur. But the consensus among his teammates was that it was Jones' long blast that momentarily crippled the club's pitching coach.

"The ball hit his bat, flew 400 feet, and the next contact it made was on top of my head," said Mazzone, who could laugh about the incident that only left him slightly dazed and didn't prevent him from performing his duties on Friday night.

So was Mazzone still feeling dizzy as he prepared for Saturday afternoon's game?

"Not any more than I usually do," said the always jovial Mazzone, who added, "I never was normal anyhow."

As Boyer stood in the visitors' bullpen, which is located beyond the left-field fence at Shea Stadium, he heard one of his teammates yell, "Heads up." Boyer ducked and heard the ball land squarely on top of Mazzone's head just a moment later.

"It smoked him right in the head," Boyer said. "He just wore it."

Ramirez, who was just about to deliver a pitch, yelled, "Stay down, stay down." He says his response came because that's what he'd done during his youthful days in Inglewood, Calif., when he saw some of his friends get shot by gang members.

Athletic trainers Jeff Porter and Jim Lovell ran into the bullpen with Braves physician Dr. Joe Chandler and found Mazzone bleeding. They were able to clean him up and stop the bleeding without the use of stitches.

In an from Friday night, Mazzone is proclaimed to be the greatest assistant coach in the history of sports. Others in the top five are Tex Winter (Chicago Bulls), Jim Johnson (Philadelphia Eagles), Charlie Weis (New England Patriots) and Dick Hoak (Pittsburgh Steelers).

Smoltz's misfortunes: Braves manager Bobby Cox has always said it takes plenty of luck to register a 20-win season. He's been fortunate to see his pitchers reach that mark nine times since 1991. But since 1998, Atlanta has had just two 20-game winners (Tom Glavine in 2000 and Russ Ortiz in 2003).

This year's victim of misfortune has been John Smoltz, who has been on the mound for two of the four games in which the Braves have been shut out this season. The latest such occurrence came on Friday night, when he was victimized by another Pedro Martinez complete-game gem.

Smoltz also opposed the Mets ace on April 10, when his 15-strikeout performance was trumped by Martinez, who went the distance and surrendered just two hits that afternoon.

"I'm going to look back on my year and say, 'There wasn't much I could do in my losses,'" Smoltz said. "That's the way it goes."

During the seven games in which Smoltz has incurred a loss, the Braves have scored a total of eight runs. They've totaled one run three times.

Add the lack of offensive support to the fact the bullpen has blown save opportunities in six of his starts and it's easy to see why many believe he could have been a 20-game winner this year. During his past eight starts, he's exited with a lead five times. Still, he's recorded just two wins during that span.

Coming up: John Thomson (3-4, 4.76 ERA) will oppose Glavine (10-13, 3.88 ERA) in the finale of a three-game series against the Mets at Shea Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

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