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Braves may lose Billy the Kid, add Saito

Have we seen the final stand of Billy the Kid?


SAVANNAH, GA – Braves closer Billy Wagner anticipated throwing the final pitch of his 16-year career at some point in the 2010 season – He did not, however, expect it to happen after throwing three pitches and recording no outs in his first Braves postseason appearance.

Wagner, whose 422 saves rank him fifth all-time among Major League relievers, has remained steadfast in a decision to retire at year’s end.  An oblique injury in the 10th inning of the Braves’ 5-4 victory over San Francisco Friday night may have caused the 38-year-old hurler to exit the mound for a final time.

“If I can’t pitch, that’s it,” Wagner said. “It stinks. But I just thank God for the opportunity to get out there in the first place. You just have to deal with the good and bad. It’s been great. Our team’s not done, so I’ll be here to help them in whatever little way possible and just enjoy the ride.”

The injury occurred when Giants pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria dropped an unexpected bunt down the third-base line on Wagner’s second delivery from the hill.

Neither a charging Wagner, nor third baseman Troy Glaus could convert the out – Worst yet, the Braves 2010 saves leader grimaced, and clutched his ailing side when returning to the mound.  

One pitch later – and another bunt later – Wagner grabbed his side and dropped to his knees after a throw to first.

“After I made the pitch and tried to go toward the plate, I couldn’t move,” Wagner said. “Thank God he bunted it just hard enough to get back to me to make a play at all. I couldn’t move. I don’t really know how I got it to first.”

The Braves closer will not pitch again in the National League Division Series. Atlanta is awaiting an evaluation Sunday to determine whether the “gunslinger” from Virginia can pitch in the NLCS.

If Wagner is placed on the disabled list, allowing Atlanta to activate a pitcher to fill the void, Wagner would be ruled ineligible to participate in the championship series.

“We’ve got a tough decision to make,” said manager Bobby Cox said. “We’ve got a lot of talking to do.”

If the team places Wagner on the disabled list, the Braves will likely look to Takashi Saito to take an active role in the ‘pen.

 Saito, who has served as the primary set-up man to Wagner in 2010, is recovering from shoulder tendinitis that sidelined him for three weeks – The reliever did have a successful outing in a Braves instructional league game Friday, striking out two batters in one inning of work.

While Braves players wait to receive word on Wagner, they prepare for the possibility of riding off into the sunset without The Kid.

“We’ve been a team all year that just rolls with the punches,” said ace Tim Hudson, who will start Sunday. “We still have to go out there and play. Injuries are part of the game and adversity is part of the game. We’re not the most talented club, but I feel like we have the most heart and a lot of guts.”

  1. Seth LaVine
    October 10, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Billy Wagner is a big loss, hate to see him end his career that way… Time for the next man to step up!

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