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Notes: Cox discusses incident

Notes: Cox discusses incident

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ATLANTA -- When Jarrod Saltalmacchia began this year at Double-A Mississippi, he heard the now suddenly-famous Phillip Wellman deliver a fiery preseason speech that let his players know that he was committed to winning.

With the benefit of streaming video all over the Internet, there have been a number of people who have come to understand Wellman, who is in his first season as Mississippi's manager, definitely has a fiery demeanor.

Whether via the Internet or television, there have been countless occasions to view the somewhat comical tantrum that followed Wellman's ejection from Mississippi's Friday night game in Chattanooga.

His actions led the Braves to hand him a three-game suspension on Monday. Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz chose not to speak further on the matter and the Southern League still hasn't revealed whether it will provide any further discipline.

"You used to see that all time in the Minors," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The game has changed now. It's just changed."

Cox remembers being in Syracuse one night nearly three decades ago, when a manager scaled a light pole in right field while yelling at the umpires. The comical aspect came when he was scared to climb down, forcing a local firefighter to help him make his descent.

Unlike Wellman, that manager was spared some unwanted attention because his actions came before this era in which cameras can broadcast nearly anything and everything to the world in an instant.

"It happened and they've got it on video," Cox said. "Whether it's Paris Hilton or a manager going off, they've got it. So it's not overblown. It's just the way that it is nowadays."

Wellman, who spent five seasons as Chattanooga's manager, was ejected in the third inning by plate umpire Brent Rice. But some friends of Wellman have indicated that most of his anger was directed toward third base umpire Rusty Barrett, who supposedly had made some volatile remarks towards the Mississippi bench.

After he was ejected, Wellman threw his hat to the ground, covered the plate with dirt, had words with Barrett, tossed the third base bag into the outfield and then crawled through the infield grass like a soldier. It was at that point that he picked up the resin bag and hurled it like a grenade in the direction of Rice, who was standing in front of home plate.

"He's behind his players all the time," Saltalamacchia said. "He's just like Bobby. He's got our back and will do anything for us. I'm sure that's just what it was. It was just a situation where he wanted to protect his players."

Still believing in Thorman: Cox is well aware of the fact that Scott Thorman has hit just .192 (19-for-99) since the beginning of May. But scattered between the 25 strikeouts that have encompassed that streak the veteran manager has seen enough long fly balls to believe Thorman can still prove to be a consistent offensive threat.

When Craig Wilson was still with the Braves for the first six weeks of the season, Thorman had few opportunities to face left-handed pitchers. He's hitting just .175 (7-for-40) with three doubles against them this year.

Combined with the fact that Saltalamacchia needs more at-bats than he's currently getting as the backup catcher, Cox will likely begin using Saltalamacchia at times at first base when opposing teams are starting a left-handed pitcher.

But at the same time, Cox doesn't believe the small sample size provided this year provides any definite reason to believe that Thorman can't still hit left-handed pitchers.

"[Thorman is] not an easy out against lefties at all," Cox said. "But it is a way to get Salty more at-bats and get him involved more."

Saltalamacchia made his debut at first base in the seventh inning of Sunday's game against the Cubs. He hasn't played the position since high school. But over the past month, he's been familiarizing himself with the position during pregame drills.

Smoltz still scheduled to go: Cox said he still planned to start John Smoltz in the second game of Tuesday's day-night doubleheader against the Marlins. The right-hander experienced no trouble with his right shoulder while throwing a bullpen session at Wrigley Field on Sunday morning.

KJ still producing: More than two months into the season, Kelly Johnson has continued to be the valuable offensive catalyst that the Braves envisioned. Entering Monday, his .408 on-base-percentage out of the leadoff spot ranked third in the Majors and was second in the National League.

Coming up: The Braves and Marlins will play a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday at Turner Field. The first game, which will start at 2:35 p.m. ET, will pit Buddy Carlyle (0-1, 9.00) against Sergio Mitre (2-2, 1.74). Smoltz (7-2, 2.82) will face Rick Vanden Hurk (0-1, 12.75) in the nightcap, which is scheduled for a 7:35 ET start.

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

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