Evan Gattis started making an impression with his batting practice home runs as a non-roster invitee in spring training, and he hasn’t stopped. The 25-year-old journeyman, who re-invented himself after a stint in drug rehab derailed his college career, just earned a promotion to Double-A Mississippi.
The Braves had already moved Gattis from catcher to left field for four or five games to try to take better advantage of his offensive prowess. On Monday they saw an opportunity to move him up after catching prospect Christian Bethancourt injured his hamstring on Sunday.
Braves assistant general manager Bruce Manno said Gattis will continue playing predominantly left field but catch occasionally and DH when applicable. Gattis was hitting .385 with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 21 games for the high Single-A Lynchburg Hillcats.
“This was an opportunity to get him to the next level and challenge him offensively and still continue the process (of learning the outfield),” Manno said. “Because now he can go there and he can catch and he can also continue his work in the outfield.”
Matthew Kennelly will do most of the catching in Bethancourt’s absence. The Braves are hoping his injury is just a 7-10 day thing, but when he returns Gattis will still occasionally catch. That’s a skill the Braves would like to see him keep over time.
And if he keeps hitting the ball as well as he has, he could find himself one of the Braves September call-ups.
“If he goes down there and swings the bat and keeps doing what he’s been doing, why not?” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But that’s a long way away. I just hope the kid keeps doing well. I really like him. He’s a good teammate. Good story. He’s one of the guys you pull for, the way he’s worked.”