Infante making himself tough to bench

Infante tough to bench

PHOENIX -- When Chipper Jones returned to the Braves lineup on Friday night, the man who had served as his replacement for the past couple of weeks didn't return to the bench. Omar Infante has proven too valuable to be limited to pinch-hitting.

While Jones missed 14 games with a strained left hamstring that he suffered on July 23, Infante provided a solid glove at third base and also hit .317 with two homers and an .872 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).

Just to provide a comparison, in the 14 games Jones played before suffering his injury, he hit .280 with one homer and an .803 OPS.

This by no means indicates Infante possesses the MVP-caliber talents of Jones. But when given an opportunity to play on a regular basis this year, he hasn't disappointed.

"He looks like an everyday player to me," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I think he can play on an everyday basis."

But where? Infante has shown his great versatility by providing what Cox terms "above-average" defense at three infield positions and in the outfield. If he were to gain a fixed spot in next year's starting lineup, the best guess would be that he'd replace Kelly Johnson at second base.

But Cox also enjoys the opportunity to utilize Infante at various positions on an everyday basis. He's certainly proven to be the multifaceted athlete that the Braves envisioned when they acquired him and Will Ohman from the Cubs in December.

"You feel good if he's a bench player and gives you a chance to give guys a rest without the team having to miss a beat," Cox said.

While playing left field in Friday night's 11-6 win over the Diamondbacks, Infante drew two walks and contributed a third-inning, two-run double. He has hit safely in 13 of the 16 games he's played since coming off the disabled list on July 23.

Over his past 35 games, dating back to June 8, Infante has hit .319 (37-for-116) and raised his batting average to .295. He produced a career-best .277 batting average with the Tigers in 2006.

The Braves have won the first two games of this series against the NL West-leading Diamondbacks, and with a win in one of the final two games of the series, they will secure their first winning road trip of the season.

Pitching matchup
ATL: RHP Jair Jurrjens (10-7, 3.12 ERA)
Jurrjens was victimized by multiple miscues and some inconsistent control while giving up four runs in six innings on Monday against the Giants. The 22-year-old rookie had allowed just one earned run in his four previous road starts combined. His only appearance against the D-backs came on May 26, when he allowed eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. His struggles that day could have been blamed on a blister that affected him for three starts.

ARI: RHP Dan Haren (12-5, 2.75 ERA)
Haren struggled with command his last time out against the Pirates, but thanks to 13 runs of support, the All-Star right-hander picked up his fifth consecutive win. Against the Braves in his career, Haren has given up seven runs in just 11 2/3 innings, but is still 2-0.

Tom Glavine will make what's scheduled to be his final Minor League rehab appearance when he starts for Double-A Mississippi on Saturday night. Glavine, who has been out since June 10 because of a partially torn flexor tendon in his left elbow, hopes to rejoin the Atlanta rotation on Thursday or Friday. ... Gov. Sonny Perdue and John Smoltz have been added to the list of speakers for the Skip Caray tribute that will be held at Turner Field on Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. ... The Braves have gone 9-for-17 with runners in scoring position during the first two games of this series.

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Up next
• Sunday: Braves (Mike Hampton, 1-0, 6.75) at Diamondbacks (Brandon Webb, 16-4, 2.93), 4:10 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Braves (Charlie Morton, 3-5, 5.70) vs. Cubs (Rich Harden, 6-2, 2.27), 7:00 p.m. ET

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