Notes: Betemit earns some playing time

Notes: Betemit earns some playing time

HOUSTON -- Braves manager Bobby Cox said his decision to give Wilson Betemit a rare start at second base on Saturday had nothing to do with what Marcus Giles did in Friday night's loss to the Astros.

Instead, Cox indicated it was simply a sign that Betemit's hot bat will be in the lineup with much more frequency. Given that he's been one of the team's most consistent hitters throughout the season, the decision may provide the spark the Braves need.

"I'm going to start playing Betemit as much as I can at second, third and short," Cox said shortly before Betemit responded with a three-hit performance in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Astros.

Batting leadoff, Betemit doubled and scored in his first two at-bats. It gave further indication that he has earned the right to play on a daily basis.

"Betty's awesome," Braves starter Tim Hudson said. "He's great. He can be starting anywhere. I've felt all along that he's the best bench player in all of baseball. I stand behind it. He's great. I've always been a big fan of his."

Hudson became an even bigger fan when Betemit played flawless defense at second base, a position he'd played just once previously in his big-league career. While adapting to the right side of the infield, he made three impressive plays, including one in which he went into shallow center field to make a catch with his back to the plate.

"Wilson had a nice game," Cox said. "He made a couple of decent plays on hard-hit balls and had three hits. He came through nice for us."

With Betemit hitting .304 and getting very few plate appearances recently, Cox wants to give the impressive young switch-hitter regular playing time.

While serving in an everyday role during the better part of April while Chipper Jones and Edgar Renteria were out because of injury, Betemit batted just .240 (12-for-50). But in May, while getting just one start, he opened some eyes by hitting .385 (10-for-26) with two doubles and two homers.

Entering Saturday, Betemit had just 12 at-bats in June. During one of his two previous starts this month, he enjoyed a three-hit performance that included his fifth homer of the season.

"Wherever they put me, I just want to play," said Betemit, who rewarded Cox's decision by recording a double in each of his first two at-bats on Saturday.

Cox didn't indicate that Betemit will see any time at first base. This comes despite the fact that entering Saturday, Brian Jordan, who starts at first against right-handed pitching, had just one hit in his past 25 at-bats.

No punishment needed: When Betemit's name was placed in the lineup's leadoff spot, there was immediate thought that Giles was being reprimanded for his casual actions that led to Houston's four-run fifth inning on Friday night. But after watching the video, Cox indicated that he felt his second baseman had reacted correctly while fielding the slow chopper that Mike Lamb turned into an infield single.

"That's the only thing he could do," said Cox of Giles, who allowed Craig Biggio to cross in front of him before fielding the chopper.

No apparent rust: When Brian McCann returned to the lineup for the first time since May 20 on Friday night, Cox was ready to be patient. He had no idea the 22-year-old catcher would end up accounting for half of the team's six hits in Friday's loss.

"I thought he would need a couple of days," Cox said. "Then he goes out there and hits three bullets."

When McCann sprained his ankle on May 20 at Chase Field in Arizona, his .350 batting average was leading the National League. With Friday's three-hit performance, he raised that average to .363, and at the same time, gave indication that his stint on the 15-day disabled list had no effect on his swing.

"I felt the same as I did before I got hurt," McCann said.

McCann's immediate production earned him the right to be back in the fifth spot in the lineup on Saturday, where he was just before the injury. Since April 26, he has hit safely in 18 of his past 23 games.

Thorman impressing: Scott Thorman's recent offensive surge for Triple-A Richmond earned him International League Player of the Week honors last week. If he continues on this pace, the Braves may be forced to find himself a spot in Atlanta.

Entering Saturday's action, Thorman was hitting .316 with 14 homers and 39 RBIs. This month, he recorded 15 hits, including five homers, in his first 34 at-bats.

With Thorman being left-handed, he wouldn't be used in a platoon role at first base with Adam LaRoche. But he has played the outfield in six of his past eight games, and, from what Cox has heard, looked impressive doing so.

Thorman's presence could provide some much-needed power in left field. Ryan Langerhans, who is hitting .174 in June, and Matt Diaz have combined for six homers, while sharing the left-field duties in Atlanta this year.

Coming up: The Braves will conclude their four-game series against the Astros on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park. Horacio Ramirez (2-1, 3.24) will oppose Wandy Rodriguez (7-3, 4.36) at 2:05 p.m. ET.

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