24. Who will be the reserve infielders?

Who might be on the Braves bench in 2009? Here are some of the candidates.

OMAR INFANTE - What a steal for the Braves. The Braves got Infante with Will Ohman from the Cubs for Jose Ascanio. Infante missed the first five weeks of the season with a wrist injury. He came back and was a very valuable member of the Braves roster. Infante hit .293 in 317 at bats and played all over the field. He played second, short, third, left, and in center field. Infante will once again be Atlanta's super utility man for the 2009 season. He'll be the insurance policy at third base, where Chipper Jones misses some games there from time to time.

MARTIN PRADO - He played first, second, short, third, and in the outfield in 2008. We may have to wait and see if Kelly Johnson is traded, which would give Prado an everyday job at second base. But if Johnson remains, Prado will be a very versatile player once again. His ability to play all over gives the Braves great value. His natural position is second base, but he proved last season he can play all over the field.

BRENT LILLIBRIDGE - It was Lillibridge's first taste of the big leagues in 2008, and his offensive woes in Triple-A carried over to Atlanta. Lillibridge hit .200 in 80 at bats with the big Braves. The Braves really didn't push Lillibridge to be versatile, only playing him at shortstop and third base. But he can also play second base and the outfield, and it'll be a shock if he doesn't see time there next spring. His ability to play four positions does give him value, and he's got a great shot to be one of the top utility guys next season.

DIORY HERNANDEZ - He'll join the 40-man roster next week after hitting .287 in 536 at bats between Mississippi and Richmond. Hernandez also added seven home runs and 61 RBI, with a .320 on base percentage. He can play second, short, and third base. Hernandez's best position, according to scouts, may be second base. Diory will get his shot in spring training to battle Lillibridge for a reserve role in Atlanta. If he does not win it, he'll go back to Triple-A and wait his chance in Gwinnett.

GREG NORTON - The Braves want to bring Norton back. He's a free agent, but they want to re-sign him. Norton played well after coming over from Seattle in a trade in early-May. He hit .246 with seven home runs and 31 RBI in 171 at bats. Norton played first base, left field, and right field, and was the team's most valuable pinch-hitter (.298 in 57 pinch-hit at bats). He was solid, and the Braves would benefit from having him return. They need a backup first baseman for Casey Kotchman, and Norton would be a perfect fit.

BARBARO CANIZARES - The right-handed batter hit .300 in Richmond with 13 home runs and 67 RBI. Expect Canizares to get a spring training big league invite. They'll need a backup to Norton, or whomever they bring in to back up Kotchman at first base. Canizares has hands of stone at first, so he's mainly a hitter. But if the Braves needed a right-handed bat off the bench there are far more worse players than Barbaro.


The Braves may need to bring in a few more candidates to be backup infielders. Expect them to sign a few minor league free agents for Gwinnett – players that can get a look-see in big league camp in March. And don't be shocked if they sign a major league free agent to add to the mix as well. The depth here is not very strong.

Bill Shanks hosts The Braves Show Talk Show, The Atlanta Baseball Show on 680 the Fan in Atlanta, and The Bill Shanks Show on SportsRadio 105.5 the Fan in Macon. He is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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