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Archive for Thursday, September 29, 2005

Braves banked on youth

September 29, 2005

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— The rookies made this a season to remember for the Atlanta Braves.

So, it was only appropriate they led the celebration.

After the Braves wrapped up their 14th straight division title Tuesday night, the youngsters took over. They sprayed champagne. They sneaked around pouring beer down teammates' shirts. They posed for pictures. They yapped on cell phones.

And Jeff Francoeur, who came up from the minors at midseason and sparked the Braves' charge to another NL East championship, really let loose.

The 21-year-old ex-high school football standout dunked his head in a frigid bin of ice and, after egging on Chipper Jones, wound up getting tackled twice by his senior teammate - once on the field, then again in the middle of the clubhouse frivolity.

"He's an idiot," Jones quipped.

The Braves actually clinched midway through a 12-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies, the title assured when the second-place Philadelphia Phillies lost to the New York Mets, 3-2.

Manager Bobby Cox cleared his bench, finishing the game with a lineup that included eight rookies and second-year player Adam LaRoche - most fitting, considering the Braves have used 17 rookies during an amazing season in which they shrugged off injuries and breakdowns by several key players.

"This is pretty special," Cox said. "When the rookies came up, the veterans turned it up a notch."

When pitchers Mike Hampton and John Thomson went down because of injuries, Atlanta dipped into its bullpen for journeyman Jorge Sosa, who had a career record of 11-26. He's 13-3 this season.

When aging outfielders Raul Mondesi and Brian Jordan failed to recapture their past form, the Braves turned to Francoeur and fellow rookies Ryan Langerhans and Kelly Johnson.

Atlanta's lineup included three rookies and eight homegrown players.

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