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Sheffield a Success in His Brave Debut

April 02, 2002|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — This is pretty much what the Braves had in the mind when they signed Gary Sheffield and Vinny Castilla.

The new Atlanta sluggers made quite an impact on opening day. Sheffield and Castilla homered and had three runs batted in each on Monday, leading the Braves to a 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

"You couldn't ask for anything better," Tom Glavine said. "We're excited about what they bring to this club, and they showed it today."

Glavine, starting in place of the injured Greg Maddux, pitched six scoreless innings before tiring in the seventh. But pitching excellence is old news in Atlanta.

The focus has shifted to offense after the Braves finished 13th in the National League in runs a year ago, even while winning their 10th consecutive division title. They have only one World Series championship to show for that streak.

Castilla hit a three-run homer in the third and Sheffield had a two-run shot in the fifth.

Sheffield, one of the game's most feared cleanup hitters, was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. Jones was moved to left field so the Braves could sign Castilla to play third base. Sheffield drove in the Braves' first run with a groundout in the opening inning. In the fifth, he came up with two out after Jones walked for the third consecutive time. Philadelphia starter Robert Person hung a breaking pitch and Sheffield knocked it over the left-field wall for his first Atlanta homer. Sheffield trotted slowly around the bases, pointed skyward as he touched home and was serenaded with chants of "Gary! Gary!" As he took his position in right field to start the sixth, the fans gave him another standing ovation, many of them bowing.

"The fans were great," Sheffield said of the 51,638 in the stadium. "This is the most people I've ever seen in this stadium. It got me going."

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