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Who Goes Down Must Get Back UpĂ–

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Horacio Ramirez is throwing, Marcus Giles and Adam LaRoche are swinging, and DeWayne Wise isn't hurt that badly. All four are expected to make rehab starts and/or return to the lineup by/after the All-Star break. But with callups Nick Green and Charles Thomas performing so well during the interim, who will get the boot when the regulars come back? Since we don't know when any of them will return, I'll take this one player at a time. It seems that Sam McConnell was recently called up specifically to replace Travis Smith, who simply wasn't doing the job against major league hitters. That said, everyone else in the Braves bullpen has an ERA under 4.00 -- they're all getting the job done -- so my guess is that McConnell's stint in the majors will be brief, although I wouldn't hold it above John Schuerholz to try to deal one of our starters before the end of July to make room. But as long as that's pure speculation, I expect the Braves to carry six starters until one of them is moved to the bullpen, and McConnell is the odd man out. The only reason Mike Hessman is in the majors is that Adam LaRoche is injured. When Adam returns, Mike will be sent back to Richmond. I would say the same abou Charles Thomas and DeWayne Wise, except Thomas has considerably outperformed Wise in very limited playing time. Thomas will certainly get some more time in the outfield before Wise returns, and if Thomas continues to impress, Wise is likely to be demoted as well. But unless Thomas excels far above expectations, Eli Marrero has earned the starting job lately, batting .370/.425/.630 -- sporting a 1.055 OPS -- since the beginning of June. Marcus Giles will certainly steal the starting job back as soon as he returns, leaving a spot on the bench and a spot in the minors for Nick Green and Jesse Garcia -- but who goes where? The "experts" of alt.sports.baseball.atlanta-braves suggest that Derosa, despite horrible offense in 2004, has earned his place on a major league bench and probably won't be the one to go back to Richmond. As one contributor put it, "Jesse Garcia? See ya!" This puts our lineup in good shape again: SS Furcal 2B Giles RF Drew 3B Chipper RF Andruw C Estrada LF Marrero 1B LaRoche/Franco (pitcher) If our offense can pick up and Horacio Ramirez can come back and pitch as well as he did early in the season, the Braves can expect to close the 3.5-game gap between them and the first-place Phillies, and hopefully they'll pass the Marlins and Mets in the meantime.

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