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Outfielder Lombard Traded to Tigers

June 20, 2002

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ATLANTA (AP) _ The Atlanta Braves traded outfielder George Lombard to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, before the teams played the second game of their interleague series.

The Braves got right-handed reliever Kris Keller, who pitched in one game this season for the Tigers before going on the disabled list May 31 with a strained right triceps.

Lombard, 26, began the season on the disabled list with a strained right calf muscle. Last year, he had surgery to repair a broken bone in his right foot.

A second-round pick in 1994, Lombard has played in just 51 games, mostly because of injuries. He missed a good portion of the 1999 season with a groin injury. He returned to the team Tuesday from a 19-game injury rehabilitation assignment.

He got in the game as a pinch-hitter, and flied out to right in the eighth inning.

``It’s hard in one sense, because he’s a fine young man and he’s got tools,″ Braves GM John Schuerholz said of Lombard. ``But it’s good in sense, too, because it provides him an opportunity. It wasn’t going to happen here. Where’s he going to play for us?″

Atlanta left fielder Chipper Jones is signed through 2006, and the contract for center fielder Andruw Jones ends a year after that. Right fielder Gary Sheffield, who joined the team in an offseason trade, has one more year after this one on his current deal.

To make room on the roster for Lombard, Detroit designated outfielder Ryan Jackson for assignment. Because Jackson is out of options, he has to clear waivers before he can report to Triple-A Toledo.

Lombard was taking batting practice with the Braves when he was told of the move. He immediately went to move his equipment to Detroit’s clubhouse. ``What’s up, fellas?″ he said after a brief meeting with Tigers manager Luis Pujols.

After meeting briefly with reporters, Lombard jogged onto the field in his No. 30 Tigers uniform and took batting practice again. Pujols, who said he had never met Lombard until Wednesday, sat in the dugout and perused the Braves’ media guide for information about his newest player.

``I saw him in spring training this year,″ Pujols said. ``He looks like a fast guy who has some tools. We’re excited to get him.″

Detroit scout Jeff Wetherby, who watched Lombard play four games earlier this month, raved about the skills he saw.

``This is an exciting day for Detroit, I hope,″ Wetherby said. ``George is a fantastic player, and he didn’t show any signs that the injuries he’s had were still a problem.

``Hopefully, he gets excited and takes off.″

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