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Cox preparing for final year at helm

Cox prepares for final year at helm

INDIANAPOLIS -- Braves manager Bobby Cox claims he hasn't allowed himself to think about the likelihood that he's preparing to enter the final season of his storied career. His expectation is that his impending retirement won't hit him until next season's final pitch is delivered.

The 68-year-old Cox still has a great passion for the game, and that energy helped carry him through the hectic pace last week brought. After visiting Turner Field on consecutive days to attend the news conferences that announced the signings of relievers Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, Cox traveled with Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell and Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez to the southern portion of Georgia for a hunting trip.

"[I] took two shots and missed them both," Cox said while talking about the deer that they saw during the short hunting trip.

With Cox prepared to enter into a special advisory role at the conclusion of the 2010 season, the Braves have just one more shot to allow him to get another taste of the postseason fever that he helped become so common in Atlanta.

Last week's acquisitions of Wagner and Saito provided Cox further reason to be confident in his bullpen. Now over the course of the next few days and weeks, he'll anxiously wait to learn whether the Braves deal either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez.

While Lowe and Vazquez proved valuable during the 15-win seasons they notched this year, Cox knows that one of them will likely need to be dealt to provide the opportunity to give him the extra bat that is needed to improve his lineup.

"We have six really good starters, and to allow us to get a hitter, we need to move one of them," Cox said.

While addressing a group of media members gathered for the start of the Winter Meetings on Monday, Cox touched on a number of different issues. After providing further praise to Martin Prado, who will likely once again serve as Atlanta's starting second baseman, Cox admitted the club had at least discussed the possibility of moving Chipper Jones to first base.

Talk about moving Jones across the diamond seemingly died quickly. But Cox confirmed that he will go to Spring Training with an open mind about the possibility of having Jason Heyward begin the 2010 season as one of his three starting outfielders.

Before becoming Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year in September, Heyward caught Cox's attention with the poise, talent and determination he showed while attending his first big league camp this year.

"He was really a standout, I thought," Cox said. "He had another good season. He's got great makeup. He's very smart and he's extremely talented. And he's hungry. He's got the entire package. ... We are not going to give anybody, you know, the job, but he's going to be able to compete. If he wins it, he wins it."

Along with talking about potential roster and lineup decisions, Cox once again reiterated that he wouldn't lobby for the enhanced utilization of instant replay. In fact, he provided an interesting take on the umpiring mistakes made during this most recent postseason.

"I like it the way it is," Cox said. "If they didn't make so many baserunning mistakes during the playoffs and everything else, the umpires, you know, would have had a good [postseason], probably."

Over the course of the following months, there will be plenty of speculation about who may replace Cox as Atlanta's manager. But contrary to what general manager Frank Wren had proposed, the storied skipper said that he doesn't want to play a role in choosing his successor.

"Honestly, I don't want any part of that," Cox said. "That's up to Frank and John [Schuerholz] and the front-office people."

Since announcing his intention in September, Cox said that he hasn't had any second thoughts. But he admitted that it's going to be tough when he has to face the fact that he is entering into a world of retirement that will prevent him from fulfilling the passion of managing a game on a daily basis.

"It's not an easy decision, to be honest with you," Cox said, "because you still love the game and you can still go."

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

{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }