ATLANTA - The day after the Atlanta Braves clinched the most improbable division title of their 14-year run, the starting lineup looked nothing like it did during the dog days of the pennant race.
Indeed, even for a team that has played more than a dozen rookies in the course of the season, the names scribbled on the clubhouse whiteboard looked more like a spring training lineup.
Not that all the names were unfamiliar: Julio Franco, who often gets in for an inning or two, was batting fourth, and Brian Jordan was in the No. 2 spot. But also on the list were Andy Marte, Pete Orr and Wilson Betemit.
All the better for some of the starters drained from yet another incredible regular-season run. Starters can now prepare for another postseason where they hope to be a bit fresher than teams still trying to nail down a playoff spot.
"I think it's definitely an advantage," said rookie pitcher Joey Devine, who could get more playing time during the regulars' brief hiatus. "Give those guys who have logged those innings a well-deserved rest."
"Old men need a little rest," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "We need to get some of these young guys on the bench some repetitions there to end the season, get their feet wet. Let Marte get his first homer out of the way, stuff like that."
Adam LaRoche, who Franco spelled at first base, agreed.
"There's a lot of guys that would probably like a bit of rest," he said. "The sooner the better."
HAPPY RETURNS: Meanwhile, someone who's had plenty of time away from the Braves - catcher Eddie Perez - was still getting over his at-bat Tuesday.
It wasn't that the at-bat itself was all that memorable; instead, it was the fact that he was in the game at all after missing every game since May 18.
The 36-year-old went on the disabled list in May for right shoulder tendinitis. He came back on June 7 only to go back on the DL the next day.
For Perez, it solved a question he's long been asked: What's his favorite big-league moment?
"Now I know which one it is. ... It was something that I'm never going to forget. It was unbelievable," he said.
As he went to the plate, he got a standing ovation from his teammates.
"I forgot about my at-bat and I was about to cry," he said.
Also making a comeback of sorts was Devine pitched a scoreless ninth Tuesday in his first appearance since giving up two grand slams in his first two games in August.
"I was just glad to be a part of that," Devine said.
ON DECK: The Braves close out the season with a three-game set in Miami against the Florida Marlins.
John Thomson (4-5, 4.53 ERA) is expected to face Josh Johnson, (0-0, 3.86 ERA).
Reach Brandon Larrabee at (404) 681-1701 or email@example.com.
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