Braves' depth is best in MLB

By Staff
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
How many major league baseball teams could lose three-fourths of their starting infield and not miss a beat?
Well, the Atlanta Braves have done just that. Since the start of the season, shortstop Edgar Renteria, second baseman Marcus Giles and third baseman Chipper Jones have all seen time on the disabled list.
Even with those injuries, the Braves are 5-5 in their last 10 – seven of which were road games – and are just three games behind the sizzling New York Mets. It seems that whenever a piece of the Braves' puzzle goes down, there's an exciting and capable youngster to step up and fill the hole.
The latest example is second baseman Martin Prado, who made his major league debut against the Nationals in a Sunday night nationally-televised ESPN game. With the Braves down 1-0 in the eighth, Prado led off the inning with a triple against tough reliever Gary Majewski.
Three batters later, Wilson Betemit – Renteria's replacement at shortstop – hit a home run off Majewski that scored Prado and Pete Orr – Jones' replacement at third base – to put Atlanta up 3-1.
It is that depth that has allowed Atlanta to win 14 straight division and titles and will keep them in the thick of the hunt for No. 15. In the marathon of the regular season, where injuries and slumps are a factor, depth is a key to winning the 162-game race.
Maybe Atlanta's starting talent isn't as good as other teams – a fact that seems verified after just one World Series title over that 14-year span – but when it comes to depth, the Braves are second to none.
That noise you might have heard from up north Saturday morning was probably cheers coming from South Bend, Ind., where high school junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen pledged his commitment to play football at the University of Notre Dame starting in 2007.
Clausen, the younger brother of former Tennessee quarterbacks Rick and Casey, is considered by several sources to be the top recruit in the country for the Class of 2007. He narrowed his choice down to two schools – USC and Notre Dame – before selecting the Irish and voicing his choice at a press conference before the school's spring game.
Clausen's commitment is significant for two reasons – first, it shows that Notre Dame is capable of going head-to-head with USC for superstar recruits right in the Trojans' backyard (Clausen is from California). Second, it could start a domino effect of other talented recruits following Clausen to South Bend, including bluechip star wide receiver Aurelius Benn and Clausen's Oaks Christian High School teammate running back Marc Tyler.
This is a nice change of pace from previous years of recruiting, when the Irish were happy to just be in the chase for players like Florida State's Lorenzo Booker and that one running back guy from USC who will be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft this weekend.
While I am not ready to proclaim that Notre Dame is back to the national spotlight it once owned, I will say that my alma mater seems to be on the right track.

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