Billy Wagner repeats his intent to retire
Billy Wagner said nothing would change his mind. Absolutely nothing. No matter how many saves he nails down for the Atlanta Braves, no matter how good his surgically repaired left arm feels at the end of the season, this year is his last go-around in the majors.
Billy Wagner said nothing would change his mind.
No matter how many saves he nails down for the Atlanta Braves, no matter how good his surgically repaired left arm feels at the end of the season, this year is his last go-around in the majors.
"I'm done. Yeah, I'm done," Wagner said with conviction before the Braves closed out a three-game series with the Phillies with a 7-5 win Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park. "It doesn't matter how I'm pitching. This is it."
Earlier this season, Wagner, who will turn 39 later this month, announced this was his final season. He's not leaving unnoticed. Instead, he is one of the game's more remarkable stories this season.
The NL East-leading Braves took two out of three from the Phillies to shove the defending NL champs six games behind in the race, and Wagner saved both wins for his 18th and 19th of the season. As he did in Tuesday's 6-3 victory, Wagner on Wednesday put away the Phillies in order, striking out Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez to end it.
Wagner came out of the bullpen for the Phillies in 2004 and '05, but he said he took no more satisfaction beating them than any other team.
"One of my closest friends in the world is over there, Charlie Manuel," he said. "I just want to win. We're trying to give ourselves a little leeway because we know the Phillies and the Mets are going to make a run and we'd like to get some cushion for when things don't go right for us."
But his good friend is managing the NL in Tuesday's All-Star Game and he didn't select Wagner, even though the lefty has all-star-caliber numbers. Along with 19 saves, Wagner is 5-0 with a 1.27 earned run average. He has 55 strikeouts in 351/3 innings.
Wagner said he spoke to Manuel on Monday, but didn't bring up the All-Star Game because he felt it would be awkward.
"Charlie called me before the Mets called when I blew out my arm" in 2008, Wagner said. "He even called and congratulated me when I signed with the Braves. He's always been a good friend."
Wagner is one of four finalists for the final vote, conducted by mlb.com, but it appears Cincinnati's deserving Joey Votto will win.
"It definitely would be an honor to get there and participate, especially in my last year," he said.
Wagner had Tommy John surgery on Sept. 10, 2008. He didn't get it done so he could resume his career. He thought he was finished.
"I just wanted to rehab so I could function and play catch with my kids and not be in pain," he said.
But Wagner said he wanted to prove to his critics he could make a comeback. He also wanted to become the second lefty reliever to reach 400 career saves. He has 404 and is taking aim at John Franco's record for lefty relievers - 424.
"Everybody said it couldn't be done, that I was too old, that I wouldn't be the same, whatever," he said. "I told my family if they wanted me to stop then, that's fine. But my wife and kids told me to give it a shot and try to move ahead of Franco."