Braves manager Bobby Cox said Saturday afternoon the Braves will wait until closer Billy Wagner is evaluated by doctors’ Sunday before deciding whether to disable him for the remainder of the National League Division Series with his strained oblique.
Wagner injured the muscle in his left side attempting to field a bunt by Edgar Renteria in the 10th inning Friday night. He had to leave the game after only three pitches.
“I’m not so sure this round he’s going to be available,” Cox said. “Maybe next round, we’ve got our fingers crossed.”
It was originally thought Wagner would be out the rest of the division series and therefore if disabled, by rule, he’d have to miss the NLCS if the Braves advance. But the way Cox laid it out Saturday, the Braves are going to exhaust every option first, saying at one point: “We could go short.”
Cox said Takashi Saito, Jair Jurrjens and Scott Proctor were all possibilities to replace Wagner on the Braves’ roster. Saito seems the most likely candidate. One of the Braves’ primary set-up men this season has pitched only one inning in the last three weeks because of shoulder tendinitis.
But Cox said Saito had a good outing at the Braves’ instructional league in Florida Friday which gave the Braves reason to believe he could go. Saito pitched an inning, facing six batters and struck out two.
“He said his arm felt fine,” Cox said. “We do have a backup there.”
Given that neither Saito, nor Jurrjens (torn meniscus in right knee) are 100 percent, and Proctor has pitched only twice in the past 3 ½ weeks, it complicates the decision.
“We’ve got a tough decision to make,” Cox said. “We’ll do a lot of talking before we make it.”
In the meantime, Cox said he’ll turn to a closer-by-committee approach, though rookie Craig Kimbrel seems to have emerged as a favorite, given his stuff and 2 2/3 perfect innings in Games 1 and 2.
“We’ll mix and match,” Cox said. “The seventh, eighth and ninth inning – whoever matches up those particular innings that’s who’s going to be out there. We’ll close with whomever. I’ve always thought (Peter) Moylan could close, and (Kyle) Farnsworth has closed in the major leagues, and (Jonny) Venters, no reason why he can’t, as well as Kimbrel.”