Notes: Betemit a hit as fill-in for Jones

Notes: Betemit a hit as fill-in for Jones

ATLANTA -- While watching Wilson Betemit play in his native Dominican Republic this past offseason, more than one scout came away with the belief that he would be a regular in most big-league lineups.

Through the first two weeks of this season, Betemit has solidified this belief. Before drilling a double in his first at-bat of Friday night's game against the Padres, the 25-year-old Braves infielder was hitting .381 (8-for-21) with three doubles and a homer.

"It's not surprising to me," Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton said. "He's ready to go."

With Chipper Jones on the disabled list until April 25, Betemit will have a chance to display his tremendous talents on a daily basis. But when Jones, who sprained both his right ankle and right knee on Sunday, returns, there's a good chance the young infielder will return to the bench.

This doesn't seem to bother Betemit, who signed with the Braves in 1996. He's well aware of the fact that he'd likely be starting for any team that doesn't possess a veteran, All-Star-caliber third baseman.

"I'm on the best team in the world, and they gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues," Betemit said. "I love the Braves. I want to stay here my whole career."

Obviously, the Braves would like to keep Betemit around as long as possible. But they may not be able to give him regular starts any time soon. At 225 pounds, he's too big to play second base, and he's certainly not as impressive on defense at shortstop as he is at third base.

With Jones under contract through the 2008 season and having an option for 2009, it will be tough for Betemit to find regular playing time in Atlanta. But he's already proven himself as a capable role player.

Last year, he hit .305 and filled in admirably while Jones spent six weeks on the disabled list with a left foot injury. Considering he had come to camp fighting to maintain a spot on the 40-man roster, it was quite an accomplishment.

"I feel more comfortable this year, because last year was different for me because I had to do something," Betemit said. "If I didn't, I knew I'd be gone."

During Wednsday night's loss to the Phillies, Betemit produced a career-best three doubles. Then, on Thursday, he made a stellar defensive play, charging a slow Sal Fasano roller and firing a strike to first base.

"He's done great filling in for a Hall of Famer," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Renteria still smoking: In uncharacteristic fashion, Edgar Renteria's most disappointing at-bat of the season occurred in the ninth inning of Thursday night's 7-6 loss to the Phillies. With runners on first and second base and one out, he struck out.

But Renteria, who struck out just three times in the season's first 10 games (45 at-bats), rebounded in fine fashion in the first inning of Friday night's game against the Padres. He drilled the fourth pitch he saw from Chan Ho Park over the left-center-field wall.

With his second homer of the season, he extended his Major League-best hitting streak to 11 games.

"He's been outstanding," Cox said. "You can't ask for anything more."

Injury updates: Left-handed reliever Macay McBride has allowed just two hits and completed two scoreless innings in his first two Minor League rehab outings with Double-A Mississippi. The Braves want him to make two more appearances, including one that lasts two innings. He's projected to be back with Atlanta on April 21.

Fellow left-handed reliever John Foster has been pain free while throwing in a controlled motion from 60 feet. While encouraged, he still knows there's a chance he'll need season-ending elbow surgery.

"I'm hoping for the best and preparing for the worst," said Foster, who hasn't pitched since March 7.

Left-handed starter Horacio Ramirez has been throwing on the side, and there's a chance he'll test his left hamstring during a rehab assignment within the next week. He was placed on the disabled list after his April 5 start in Los Angeles.

Right-handed reliever Joey Devine, who was optioned to Triple-A Richmond on Monday, faced two batters before leaving Thursday's night's game with soreness in his lower back. He began feeling the discomfort on March 27, and the ailment might have hampered him in the two appearances he made with Atlanta last week.

Coming up: The Braves will host the Padres again on Saturday night. John Smoltz (0-1, 6.75 ERA) will oppose Jake Peavy (1-1, 7.36 ERA) in the middle game of the three-game series.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.