The Braves envisioned a significant bench role for Joe Mather when they claimed him off waivers from St. Louis in November.
On Tuesday, they designated him for assignment for the second time in four months, which might have ended a Braves career that never took flight except for one memorable weekend in Southern California.
After going 7-for-12 with a homer and five RBIs in three games May 20-22 against the Angels at Anaheim, Mather was 3-for-42 (.071) with two RBIs, four walks and 13 strikeouts in his last 21 games.
When outfielder Nate McLouth came off the disabled list Sunday, the Braves kept rookie Wilkin Ramirez as a backup outfielder and dropped Mather, who hit .213 with one homer, nine RBI and 23 strikeouts in 75 at-bats.
They have 10 days to trade, release or put him on waivers.
“That was a difficult decision,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “And like I told [Mather], this is not a 15-second decision, because he brings some flexibility, he can play all kinds of different positions. But we’ve struggled swinging the bat.
“We just made the decision to maybe give Ramirez an opportunity to do that job.”
Unlike Mather, Ramirez can’t play first or third base. Ramirez is strictly an outfielder. He has raw power and good speed and has shown something in limited chances in the majors with Detroit and Atlanta, going 5-for-18 with a double, a triple and a homer.
Ramirez had 18 extra-base hits (seven homers) and 21 RBIs in 48 games this season at Triple-A Gwinnett, albeit with a .238 average and .283 on-base percentage. He’s 25, three years younger than Mather.
Because Mather was out of minor-league options, the Brave had to put him through waivers when they cut him near the end of spring training. He cleared and was outrighted to Gwinnett.
In order to outright him to the minors for a second time, the Braves would have to get Mather through waivers and then have him approve the move. He could instead choose to become a free agent if he clears waivers.
The Braves will try to trade him rather than lose him to a waiver claim.