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Braves notebook: Lowe looking to 'embrace' opener

ATLANTA - There's a lot riding on tonight's opening day start for Derek Lowe.

At least Lowe says he's not intimidated by having to pitch at Philadelphia's hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

Lowe will make his first regular-season start for Atlanta in the opener against the Phillies.

'It's a great honor with the pitching tradition the Braves have had here and who they've rolled out there the last 15 to 20 years,' Lowe said.

Lowe, who signed with the Braves from the Los Angeles Dodgers, is being asked to move in as the team's new ace.

'There's so much in this game for me,' Lowe said. 'It's my first game with a new organization. It starts the whole '09 season off and you're playing against the defending world champions in their place. Other than that, it's just a normal game.'

Lowe was 0-3 in opening day starts for the Dodgers, but he has enjoyed success at Philadelphia's new stadium. Lowe is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts at Citizens Bank Park.

Lowe said he has enjoyed the advantage of pitching in cool weather in Philadelphia.

'I've been fortunate because it's a very hitter-friendly park,' he said. 'It seems like we've always played there at the beginning of the season and the end of the season.

'My numbers are pretty good there but we've scored a lot a runs. I've been in a lot of blowout games. When you're up by nine or 10 runs, the other team doesn't quite play the same.'

Brett Myers is scheduled to start for the Phillies.

'It's going to be a great challenge,' Lowe said.

'It's fun. That's why you play. Embrace it. Take it all in. Feel fortunate for where you are. It's a great time of the year. It's a special game.'

Leading off

Shortstop Yunel Escobar was Atlanta's leadoff hitter against Detroit in the Braves' final two exhibition games on Friday night and Saturday, and that appears to be manager Bobby Cox's plan for today.

'Probably,' Cox said Saturday. 'I'll talk to the coaches about it.'

Rookie Jordan Schafer, who won the starting job in center field, won't be expected to hit leadoff. 'Not right now,' Cox said.

Schafer was the No. 8 hitter on Saturday.

Kelly Johnson hit second on Saturday, but Cox said he has other options for that spot in the lineup, including first baseman Casey Kotchman.

'Escobar has got a real good on-base percentage,' Cox said.

The Braves were without two of their biggest bats in the middle of their lineup on Saturday. Chipper Jones was sick and Brian McCann had the day off while Clint Sammons started at catcher.

Cox said Jones should be ready to play today.