ATLANTA — One night, the Atlanta Braves might count on Mike Gonzalez to get the last three outs.
The next night, Rafael Soriano could be the one handling the crucial job.
The Braves have two overpowering pitchers at the back end of their bullpen, and manager Bobby Cox doesn’t need to worry about which one should be the closer.
He just uses them both.
Gonzalez has eight saves and Soriano five, making the Braves the only NL team that has two relievers with at least five saves. (There are three in the AL.)
“I don’t mind it at all,” said Gonzalez, who started the season as the full-time closer.
“When you’ve got an arm like Soriano’s, you’ve got to take advantage of it. If you can mix and match, you should mix and match. I’d be doing it, too.”
Cox makes his call based on who’s coming to bat for the opposing team in the final two innings. Gonzalez is a lefty and Soriano a right-hander, which gives the manager plenty of flexibility to decide who should pitch the eighth when the Braves are ahead, and who gets the ball in the ninth when the official save is on the line.
“I’m just playing the innings, that’s all,” Cox said before Wednesday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, praising Gonzalez and Soriano for their unselfishness. “It takes team performers in order to do that.”
SCHAFER INJURED: Former Braves center fielder Jordan Schafer, who was sent to the minors last week after struggling in the big leagues, is dealing with another setback.
Schafer sustained a deep bone bruise in his left hand while batting for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday. While X-rays and an MRI showed no serious damage, the youngster will have to sit out a couple of weeks to let the pain subside.
James Parr, who also pitched in Atlanta this season, is now sidelined at Gwinnett because of a tender elbow.
General manager Frank Wren expects the right-hander to miss up to two weeks.