Atlanta deactivates closer Wagner

By Dave Sheinin and Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 11, 2010; D4

The Atlanta Braves deactivated injured closer Billy Wagner before Sunday's Game 3 of the Division Series, replacing him with reliever Takashi Saito - a move that deepened their bullpen, but may have signaled the end of Wagner's career.

Wagner, who saved 37 games for the Braves during an all-star season, strained his left oblique muscle making a throw to first base in Friday night's Game 2. The decision to deactivate him was made Sunday afternoon, after Wagner couldn't finish a throwing session in an indoor batting cage.

"It's painful," Wagner said. "There are just certain movements you can't make."

The Braves were reluctant to deactivate Wagner because doing so, by rule, makes him ineligible not only for the rest of the Division Series, but also for the National League Championship Series, should the Braves advance.

"It was so bad today," Braves Manager Bobby Cox said Sunday of the decision, "there's no way he could possibly be ready for the next round - maybe [even] the World Series."

Wagner has said he intends to retire following this season, which means he may have thrown his final pitch.

"Everybody's asked me all year why am I retiring," Wagner said. "Well, it didn't have anything to do with whether I pitched well or didn't pitch well. It was to go out and compete and have a chance to win a ring. Maybe it's not going to happen the way I want it to, and that's just life."

Saito, the Braves' primary setup man for most of the season, has been hampered by a sore shoulder and has pitched only once in the past three weeks. . . .

The Giants jolted their lineup Sunday by benching third baseman Pablo Sandoval and replacing him with Mike Fontenot, essentially acknowledging that Sandoval's slumping bat and mediocre defense were making him a liability.

"I think it's fair to say Pablo is searching a little bit with his swing," Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said.

Too much rest?

The Philadelphia Phillies' dominance in the Division Series may lead to an unusual-yet-welcome obstacle. After the monotony and routine of the regular season, their postseason is starting to feel like a lull interrupted by the occasional game.

The Phillies completed a three-game sweep of the Reds, knowing that a victory Sunday would lead to a five-day layoff before Game 1 of the NLCS. In all, the Phillies will play only three games in the 12 days between the final day of the regular season and Oct. 16, the day the NLCS begins.

"I don't know what can be done," Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel said before Game 3. "If you advance to the next round, you do good, nobody says nothing. But if you don't, people say the rest hurt 'em. I don't know. It's part of the game."

With the Phillies victory, ace Roy Halladay gets nine days of rest between his no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS and his next start. But if you think the extra rest could slow down the Phillies' vaunted 1-2-3 of Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, their history puts that theory to rest.

In the past five years, Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels have started nine, 17 and 18 games on six or more days of rest. Their respective ERAs in such games: 2.48, 2.74 and 4.46.,

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