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Lerew impressive

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Apparently, Roger McDowell is already helping out a lot with top prospect Anthony Lerew. Lerew caught Cox's eyes on Monday with the pinpoint control he displayed with his live fastball, biting slider and quickly developing split-finger fastball. He didn't begin throwing the splitter until mid-August last year, and he really didn't begin working on it again until a few weeks ago. During the club's early throwing program, which was held in Atlanta earlier this month, new pitching coach Roger McDowell told Lerew to begin throwing the split-finger pitch on the outer part of the plate. Suddenly, he saw improved action and displayed better control with the pitch. "I throw hard, and I think if I get this split working for me, I believe I can [be the closer]," Lerew said. "It's something that I'd want to do." Improved mechanics have allowed Lerew to find quick success with the split-finger pitch and at the same time see his velocity rise into the upper 90's. These pitches combined with his slider give him a well-round repertoire. That would be nice. Also... Villarreal and Lance Cormier, the two pitchers acquired in the trade, have both made favorable impressions on Cox. Villarreal appears set to play an important role in the bullpen. As for Cormier, he's doing well early in his fight to land a roster spot. Cox has said that John Smoltz's curveball is the best one the Braves have to offer. But he was also impressed with the one he saw from Cormier on Monday. "The kid is in that class with John's breaking ball," Cox said. Just how good is John Smoltz? His 4th or 5th best pitch, the curveball, is the best one on the team.

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