Notes: Langy facing favorite team
Round Rock, Texas, native grew up cheering for Astros, Biggio
ATLANTA -- At this time last year, Ryan Langerhans was back in his native Texas listening to his friends cheer for the Astros in their National League Division Series battle against the Braves. Now those same friends find themselves conflicted.
With Langerhans now a central part of a Braves team that is looking to gain revenge in their NLDS rematch against the Astros, those friends that he was fishing with last year are now wondering if they should quickly learn the Tomahawk Chop.
"I was talking to them today and they were like, 'You're making it tough on us, we don't know who we're going to root for,'" Langerhans said. "That makes it a little bit special."
Like fellow rookie outfielder and Texas native Kelly Johnson, Langerhans saw his first Major League game at the Astrodome. It was there that he adopted Craig Biggio as his favorite player and the Astros as his favorite team.
While batting .417 (5-for-12) against them this year, Langerhans certainly didn't position himself to be one of the Astros' favorite opponents. The 25-year-old Round Rock native hit his first big league homer against them in the 12th inning of a 1-0 win on April 18. Three weeks later in Atlanta, he victimized them with his first career two-homer performance.
Despite all of his success against the Astros and the .333 batting average he compiled in September, Langerhans wasn't in the starting lineup for Game 1. Instead, Braves manager Bobby Cox chose to utilize the right-handed Brian Jordan against Houston southpaw Andy Pettitte.
Because of a troublesome left knee, the 38-year-old Jordan made just four starts after July 1. Entering Wednesday afternoon's game, he had just one hit in 11 career at-bats against Pettitte. But Cox felt his veteran outfielder might be able to provide some postseason magic.
"There's no reason we shouldn't play him out there," Cox said. "His knee is feeling good right now. He's playing terrific defense. He hit the ball hard off of [lefty] Dontrelle [Willis last weekend]. Even the series before we went down to Florida, he hit the ball hard. Hopefully we'll be able to catch a little lightning in the bottle."
Langerhans, who batted .293 against left-handed pitchers this year, understood the decision and is just looking forward to getting the opportunity to make his first postseason start in Game 2.
"At this time of year, I think it's a situation where everybody is rooting for everybody, no matter who is in there," Langerhans said. "That's the way I'm looking at it. I'd love to be in there. But I know Brian is going to get in there and do a good job."
If Langerhans makes his expected start in Thursday night's Game 2, he'll have the opportunity to face Roger Clemens, a man who is revered to the highest degree by native Texans. In fact, the Atlanta rookie outfielder says he believes Clemens to be the Lone Star State's most legendary athletic figure.
"I'd have to say he's right up there with Nolan Ryan," Langerhans said. "I know in my eyes what Nolan did in the game was unbelievable. But what Roger has done, especially in the last six, seven years, is just unbelievable."
Abundance of rookies: There is a good chance the Braves will use more rookies in this Division Series than any other team has in a playoff series during the past 48 years. They are carrying eight rookies for their best-of-five series against the Astros.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau's records, which go back to 1957, the 2002 Angels are the only team that has used as many as six rookies in a series. Of course, that didn't hinder them on the way to the World Series title that year.
The Braves will certainly use Jeff Francoeur, Ryan Langerhans and Brian McCann in the Division Series. There is also a good chance they'll need to bring Kelly Johnson, Pete Orr and Wilson Betemit off the bench. Macay McBride will likely be needed to retire at least one lefty, and there's always a chance Joey Devine's services will be needed.
Elias can't determine if the eight rookies on the Braves' roster is a postseason record. They are only able to trace rookies who have appeared in games.
Hampton returns: Given his choice, Mike Hampton would have found a way to battle through the pain and pitch in this year's Division Series against the Astros, his former employer. Instead, he'll have to settle for lending vocal support to his Braves teammates.
Hampton, who had Tommy John surgery on Sept. 26, rejoined his teammates on Tuesday afternoon and plans to remain with them throughout their October run. Dressed in his uniform, he took part in the ceremonial introductions before Wednesday afternoon's game.
"It will probably be the second toughest thing to do," Hampton said. "I think the first would be to sit at home and not be in the playoffs. Now I can still watch baseball and have something to root for. If this team wasn't in the playoffs, I don't think I'd be watching too much baseball."
Hampton, who was limited to just 69 1/3 innings this year, won't pitch again until the 2007 season. He is under contract with the Braves through the end of the 2008 campaign.
Kudos from Garner: While waiting to address the media on Wednesday afternoon, Astros manager Phil Garner heard the final minutes of John Smoltz's address. The Houston skipper came away realizing his team will be facing more than a tough pitcher on Thursday night.
"I recall seeing him [as a closer] against my clubs," Garner said. "He's got just fierce determination and [is] a great competitor. Now I have to add pretty good public speaker to that after listening to him on this. He's pretty impressive all-around."
Garner also delivered some praise toward Julio Franco, who started at first base for the Braves on Wednesday. During a brief stint with the Brewers in 1997, the 47-year-old Franco's manager was Garner.
"I thought his career was about done, and that was about six or seven years ago," Garner said. "That shows how smart I am. ... He's been a phenomenal player and fun to watch...you appreciate what guys like him do for our game."
Pregame festivities: Comedian Jeff Foxworthy delivered the first pitch and country music start Mark Willis sang the national anthem before Wednesday's game.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.