Ross chosen to lead players-only meeting
Braves set positive tone in order to focus, get back to winning
NEW YORK -- Further proving that they recognize him as much more than a backup catcher, a group of Braves players approached David Ross and asked him to organize the players-only meeting that preceded Friday's series-opening win over the Mets.
"They chose me because they know that I'm not scared to say anything," Ross said with a smile as he prepared to take batting practice Saturday afternoon.
Actually, this selection was a product of the fact that Ross has established himself as a legitimate clubhouse leader while spending the past two seasons in Atlanta. It was a primary reason the Braves gave the 33-year-old backup a two-year, $3.25 million contract extension in July.
"Rossy is one of a kind because he understands the game enough to know that it's tough," said Braves closer Billy Wagner. "He also knows that you have to have fun. He has a good time. He loosens you up. Everybody looks at the numbers and thinks the numbers make you a leader. Well, it has nothing to do with the numbers. It has more about what you bring to this clubhouse."
While serving as the organizer and chair of the meeting, Ross joined Chipper Jones, Eric Hinske and Wagner as the primary speakers. They addressed some concerns that developed during the 5-9 skid the Braves carried into this road trip. But they also made every attempt to provide a positive tone.
"We don't panic," Ross said. "We're relaxed. We just wanted to make sure everybody was focused and ready to get back to doing what we were doing."
Wagner doesn't like team meetings for the simple fact that they only occur during rough stretches of a season. But he walked away from this with a sense that it could prove to be positive.
"Meetings allow everybody to know that we're all on the same page," Wagner said. "We all know what's going on. You just relax and do what you've got to do. We're all going to have good games and bad games. You can't go out there and worry about having one or the other. You just have to go out there and play hard."
With Friday night's win over the Mets, the Braves separated themselves from the frustration they were feeling. More importantly, they kept pace with the Phillies in the National League East and gained a 1 1/2-game advantage over the second-place Padres in the Wild Card race.
Saito hoping exam results let him pitch again
NEW YORK -- Recognizing the possibility that he might not pitch again beyond this year, Takashi Saito has spent the season telling the Braves' medical staff to do whatever they needed to do to allow him to continue pitching on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, Saito might not have enough time to return from his latest health-related setback. The 40-year-old right-hander will return to Atlanta and have his right shoulder examined by members of the Braves' medical staff on Monday.
After retiring the first two batters he faced in Friday night's win over the Mets, Saito began feeling some discomfort inside his right shoulder. The pain proved to be significant enough for him to make an immediate exit from the game.
When Saito's right shoulder began bothering him during the All-Star break, the Braves began carefully monitoring his workload. He has made just 16 appearances since July 30, but he proved to be the dependable setup man the Braves envisioned when they signed him in December.
Saito didn't allow an earned run in the 15 2/3 innings that encompassed those 16 appearances. In the process, he limited opponents to a .158 batting average and recorded 20 strikeouts, while issuing just one walk.
Franco glad Wagner has shot at lefty record
NEW YORK -- As John Franco and Billy Wagner spent some time talking during batting practice at Citi Field on Saturday afternoon, they rekindled a friendship that began nearly 20 years ago, long before they knew they would one day both rank among the greatest closers in Major League history.
Before this season is complete, Wagner could surpass Franco's all-time record for saves by a left-handed reliever.
Having secured his 420th career save during Saturday's 4-2 win over the Mets, Billy Wagner now stands four saves away from matching the 424 that John Franco totaled during a 21-season career that began in 1984.
"It's good that he's getting close," Franco said. "Records are meant to be broken. He's a good guy. I've known Billy a long time. If somebody has to break the record, I'm glad it could be him."
With the Braves only scheduled to play 13 more regular season games, there's a chance that Wagner could fall just short of matching or setting a new record for left-handed relievers. But the 39-year-old veteran has never wavered since revealing that he will retire at the end of this season.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.