0

Braves notes: Julio Franco's back, will start at first

ATLANTA - Julio Franco is back with the Braves.

The 48-year-old first baseman agreed to terms with Atlanta on Wednesday and will start today's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Franco played five seasons with the Braves between 2001 and 2005 and was a fan favorite and a clubhouse leader.

"It seems to me if he's anywhere near where he was, he can help us," Cox said.

Franco played the first half of the season with the New York Mets but was removed from their 25-man roster last Sunday. He hit .200 with one home run and eight RBIs in 40 games with the Mets.

Franco is a .298 lifetime hitter and batted .300 or better in two of his five seasons with the Braves. He has 2,576 career hits.

"Julio gives us that right-handed bat off the bench and that experience," pitcher John Smoltz said. "He gives us all that."

The term of Franco's contract with the Braves will be for the rest of the 2007 season. He intends to play at least until his 50th birthday, which is August 23, 2008.

Devine, not Davies, sent down

Pitcher Kyle Davies got a reprieve from his manager Wednesday, as the Braves sent reliever Joey Devine to the minors to make roster room for John Smoltz.

Smoltz came off the disabled list and started against the Cincinnati Reds.

Davies appeared a likely candidate to be assigned to Class AAA Richmond. Cox yanked Davies 22 pitches into his last start, Monday night against the Reds, because of the pitcher's location problems. Davies has one win in his last seven starts with a 7.37 ERA over that span.

Davies expressed relief over the club's decision to keep him in Atlanta. He is scheduled to start Sunday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Devine spent just 12 days with the big league club in his third stint in Atlanta this season. Devine pitched in two games, allowing one earned run in two innings. He also worked a scoreless inning in a game earlier this season.

Diaz best in pinch

Matt Diaz added to his major league-leading pinch hit numbers Wednesday with a single in the 11th inning. The broken-bat liner to left field was his 12th of the season. Diaz is 12-for-27 - a .444 average - as pinch hitter this season and has hit .357 off the bench since the start of the 2006 season.

Diaz's 47 starts in 95 games makes his strong pinch hitting numbers even more impressive. He splits time in left field with Willie Harris.

On deck

Atlanta will start right-hander Tim Hudson (9-5) in today's opener of a four-game series against St. Louis at Turner Field. The Cardinals will pitch lefty Mike Maroth (0-2). First pitch is at 7:35 p.m.

SideBar: How Gwinnett's stars fared in Wednesday's game:

Jeff Francoeur

3-for-6, 2 RBIs, stolen base

Season: .290 avg, 10 HR, 63 RBIs

Brian McCann

2-for-6, 2B

Season: .269 avg, 11 HR, 53 RBIs