Closer can come off DL Monday

Atlanta Braves: John Smoltz threw off the mound Saturday for the first time since going on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right elbow, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

The Braves' closer felt better and threw with more velocity than when he threw off flat ground Wednesday at New York, according to pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Smoltz hasn't thrown in a game since Aug. 23 at Colorado.

"There was definite improvement," Mazzone said. "He had some giddy-up."

When he threw in New York for the first time in a week, Smoltz reported soreness in the elbow and said the recovery process had just begun. Mazzone said there was less discomfort when Smoltz threw Saturday.

"Not complete [lack of pain], but improvement," he said to the paper.

Smoltz will not be ready to pitch when he is eligible to come off the disabled list Monday. The Braves haven't decided on a timetable for his return, according to the report.

Colorado Rockies: Colorado outfielder Preston Wilson left Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers because of back spasms.

Wilson, leading the majors with 128 RBI, batted twice and departed after three innings.

He was listed as day-to-day.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said Wilson began experiencing the spasms after backing into the center-field wall to catch Jeromy Burnitz's long fly ball in the first inning.

"When he continued to move around, he just started getting some spasms," Hurdle said. "He wanted to continue, but it wouldn't have been worth it."

Anaheim Angels: Angels shortstop David Eckstein intensified his workout regimen Saturday, running at full speed for the first time since being sidelined three weeks ago by nerve irritation in his right hamstring, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he hoped Eckstein could return within a week.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers may be moving Ismael Valdes out of the starting rotation and giving either Tony Mounce or Ryan Drese his four remaining starts, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Rangers manager Buck Showalter allowed only that John Thomson, originally scheduled to start on Wednesday in Seattle, will start either Tuesday or Wednesday,.

"After that, things are a little up in the air," Showalter told the paper. "We're considering our options."

Mounce made eight starts for the Rangers earlier this summer, compiling a 1-4 record and 6.38 ERA. Drese has appeared in seven games (five starts) and has a 9.12 ERA.

Chicago Cubs: Cubs reliever Antonio Alfonseca was still disgusted with the length of his suspension, despite Major League Baseball reducing it from seven to five games Saturday.

"Bull ... " he said.

Alfonseca, who began serving his suspension with Saturday night's game against the Brewers, has refused further comment, according to the paper, but Cubs management was pleased Alfonseca got a lesser penalty after appeal.

"There is no perfect time to miss games in the middle of a pennant race, but we felt this was as good a solution as we probably could have expected,'' Hendry said to the paper. "He was guilty of a serious infraction ... Intentional or not intentional, you can't hit the umpires."

Alfonseca bumped into umpire Justin Klemm on Tuesday after Klemm mistakenly ruled that Moises Alou's drive down the left-field line was foul. Replays showed the ball hit the foul line, making it fair.