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Mark Townsend

Tough luck: Braves lose Billy Wagner to strained oblique

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Watching a clearly injured Billy Wagner(notes) walk off a big league mound on Friday night — potentially for the very last time — was a tough scene to digest.

Whether victory or defeat, Billy the Kid deserves the chance to make that walk on his own terms. He deserves a conclusive ending to his outstanding 16-year career.

But barring an unlikely change of heart on his retirement plans, that closure will probably never come. Wagner has already been ruled out for the remainder of the NLDS with a strained left oblique muscle. His official removal from the roster will make him ineligible for the NLCS as well. A World Series return would likely be termed wishful thinking.

That's the personal side of this unfortunate story.

As for the Atlanta Braves as a team, life goes on.

Another day. Another hard fought battle. And another devastating injury to overcome in their pursuit to send manager Bobby Cox out on top. They have been here before, though this injury is a potentially bigger hurdle emotionally given the circumstances surrounding Wagner.

From a personnel standpoint, I think they can overcome this.

Replacing Wagner on the roster should prove to be a simple task. If Takashi Saito(notes) (shoulder) can prove himself to be healthy, he'll get the spot. Not only would he get the spot, but he would be instantly thrown into the late innings fire. His experience in that role outweighs the luxury of bringing him back slowly.

If Saito needs more time, Jair Jurrjens(notes), who Bobby Cox indicated would be a candidate for the NLCS roster, would get the call.In that scenario, Cox would be forced to feature a pair of rookies — right-hander Craig Kimbrel(notes) and left-hander Jonny Venters(notes) along with unlikely Game 2 hero Kyle Farnsworth(notes) and mainstay Peter Moylan(notes).

The Braves clearly aren't better off in either scenario, but if the first two games are any indication, the overpowering Kimbrel and rock solid Venters won't be putting Atlanta at a disadvantage either.

Of course the biggest key to surviving Wagner's loss will be the starting pitching. You can bet Game 3 starter Tim Hudson(notes) understands that and will be determined to keep as much pressure off the bullpen as he possibly can.

That's just what the Braves do in 2010. You're not likely to hear any excuses. You are likely to get the best from the twenty-five men on their roster on any given day.

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