Braves find much-needed fifth starter

PHOENIX -- The Chicago Cubs traded pitchers Juan Cruz and
Steve Smyth to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday for minor league
left-hander Andy Pratt and infielder Richard Lewis.

The Cubs cut ties with Cruz three seasons after the right-hander
made an impressive debut in Chicago, going 3-1 with a 3.22 ERA in
11 starts in 2001.

He fell to 3-11 with a 3.98 ERA the next season, pitching mainly
out of the bullpen, and was 2-7 last year with a 6.05 ERA.

"It's not something that I went into the spring shopping Cruz
at all. It wasn't like I felt I had to move him. He's been such a
good prospect for us," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said.

"When he first came up with us a couple years ago, he had the
great September. He hasn't been quite as consistent ever since.
Some of that was probably attributed to the back-and-forth role of
the 'pen-start, the 'pen-start last year. Sometimes guys will
blossom when they get a change of scenery. Hopefully, it will be a
good trade for both."

The Braves liked Cruz's potential.

"The kind of arm [Cruz] has is hard to come by," general
manager John Schuerholz said. "We can use him out of the bullpen
or in the starting rotation. I feel a lot better about our pitching
staff because this is a quality guy."

Smyth was 6-11 with a 5.23 ERA last year for Triple-A Iowa. He
has a career record of 36-32 with a 4.11 ERA in 97 minor league starts.

Pratt was in the running for the fifth starter's job in Atlanta
and could fill that role early in the season for the Cubs while
Mark Prior sits out with inflammation in his right Achilles tendon.

Pratt led the International League in strikeouts last season
with 161 and was 7-10 in 27 starts with a 3.40 for Triple-A
Richmond. He made five appearances this spring, giving up one
earned run in eight innings. He struck out eight and walked six.

"I'm sure I'll beat myself into the ground about what I could
have done, but I thought I did my best to make it here," Pratt
said. "The Braves gave me a good opportunity and I'm hoping for
the same thing in Chicago."

Hendry said there's a good chance Pratt will start the season in
the majors.

"He's got to come in and get acclimated in a hurry. That would
be our hope," Hendry said.

Mike Remlinger has been recovering from offseason shoulder

"With Rem out and Prior starting on the DL, we're certainly
hopeful he can come in there and at least fill a bullpen spot for
us on Opening Day."

Lewis hit .239 with 32 extra-base hits and 47 RBIs in 129 games
last year at Double-A Greenville. He was the 40th overall selection
in the 2001 draft.