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Outlook not so good for the disabled Braves
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After a decade of ruling the National League East, the Braves have spent what seems like an eternity watching the postseason from home.

Originally, this year's team had the potential to return to the promised land, but now the playoffs seem like a shot in the dark.

Returning a phenomenal cast filled with marquee guys such as Chipper Jones - who happens to be chasing the batting title - power hitter Mark Teixeira and youngsters Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur, the Braves were thought to have one of the most feared lineups.

After all, backed by an underrated defense and an aging pitching staff, Atlanta's hopes were riding on the health of its sluggers.

The question is not whether they can still play on the field, but rather if they can stay on the field. And it turns out the Braves have succumbed to the injury gods yet again.

Having lost ace John Smoltz and reliever Peter Moylan to season ending surgery, the list continues to grow.

Tom Glavine is in the middle of his second stint on the disabled list. Joining him is closer Mike Gonzalez and arguably the biggest waste of general manager Frank Wren's money, Mike Hampton.

In fact, Hampton hasn't played a full season since signing with the Braves. Of course, he still makes a ridiculous $15 million.

 Also on the list are outfielders Matt Diaz and Mark Kotsay, a veteran who battled back injuries in 2007 but was then cleared by team doctors.

Infielders on the disabled list include backup second baseman Martin Prado and the on-again-off-again Jones.

Notice a theme here?

Unable to remain healthy, the Braves have looked elsewhere to pick up the slack.

Using players the average fan is unfamiliar with (i.e. Omar Infante, Ruben Gotay, Greg Norton), Atlanta manager Bobby Cox has strategically filled the vacancies in an attempt to save the season.

And with surprisingly good starts from Jair Jurrjens, Jorge Campillo, Jo-Jo Reyes and Charlie Morton, the Braves' 30 and under group has taken a lot of pressure off the veterans' ailing backs.

Regarding the outfield, I often wonder if the Braves draw names from a hat before the first pitch. After all, Infante, Blanco, Norton and Josh Anderson have all tried their hand at filling the voids.

Still, with the nagging injuries it is good the Braves have the ability to fill all holes.

But winning with these guys is a different story.

Having won seven of its last 20 and sitting six games behind the Philadelphia Phillies as of Thursday, Atlanta has lost its swagger after an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles (1991-2005).

If the Braves wish to close the gap before the all-star break, they have to start believing they can still win.

Nothing is impossible, just look at the Boston Celtics.

After all, entering Thursday the pitching staff had a combined 3.70 earned run average.

Atlanta also had the National League's second highest batting average (.272). However, the RBI totals (325) are still low, primarily because Diaz and Kotsay cannot produce while on the bench.

If the offense can start manufacturing runs, and Atlanta's make-shift rotation and unstable bullpen doesn't collapse, the team will be within striking distance before Wren starts dealing players.

But with all the woes and setbacks, the one thing we know for sure is that this organization will not give up.

For now, all we can do is wait. Hopefully, the Braves will soon pull it together and get back to what we as fans are familiar with - winning.

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