ATLANTA -- Determined to pitch again this year and also committed to his plan to retire once this season concludes, Billy Wagner arrived at Turner Field on Sunday afternoon and gave the Braves' medical staff permission to inject him with medication to numb his injured left oblique muscle.
Before providing the injection with the hope that it might allow Wagner to continue pitching in the National League Division Series or at least be ready for the NL Championship Series, the Braves needed to receive confirmation that Wagner had absolutely no reservations about his retirement plans.
"They didn't want to run that risk that if I did get the shot and I went out and pitched and tore that muscle much worse that it would hamper me maybe for next year," Wagner said. "I thought it was worth the risk to go out there and give it the best effort, and maybe get lucky."
When Wagner experienced too much pain when he attempted to throw Sunday morning, the Braves replaced him on their NLDS roster with right-hander Takashi Saito, who has seemingly overcome the right shoulder discomfort that has bothered him the past three weeks.
"I've never hurt an oblique," Wagner said. "I didn't know you could pull fat. I didn't know. I thought only hitters got that stuff."
Considering the amount of pain Wagner experienced when he limped off the mound in the 10th inning of Friday night's Game 2 win in San Francisco, there was little reason to believe he would heal in time to pitch in the remainder of this five-game NLDS. But the 39-year-old closer still woke up Sunday with some hope.
"I felt considerably better than I had the night before, and there's a lot more movement and things that I could do," Wagner said. "So yeah, I was hoping for a miracle."
Now Wagner finds himself hoping the injury-depleted Braves make a miraculous run to the World Series. Because Saito replaced him on the NLDS roster, the veteran closer is ineligible to compete in the NLCS.
With this in mind, Wagner faces the possibility that he has thrown the final pitch of a career that includes 422 saves -- fifth all-time and two shy of John Franco's Major League record for left-handed relievers.
The only thing he would like to add to his resume is the World Series ring he was seeking when he opted to return from Tommy John surgery last year and then sign with the Braves in December. He certainly aided his cause while posting a career-best 1.43 ERA in 71 appearances this year.
"Everybody has asked me all year why I am retiring," Wagner said. "Well it didn't have anything to do with whether I pitched well or didn't pitch well. It was to go out and compete and have a chance to win a ring. Maybe it's not going to happen the way I want to, and that's just life."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.