Braves set to officially introduce Gattis’ story to the Major League scene
The Braves have played a key role in the development of a few feel-good stories since the turn of the century.
One of my favorite moments will always be the day Chris Hammond learned that he earned a spot in the Atlanta bullpen at the beginning of the 2002 season. He had not pitched in the Major Leagues since beginning a two-year retirement in 1999.
Hammond surrendered three earned runs during his second appearance of the 2002 season and then allowed just two more earned runs in the next 59 appearances he made that year. The 0.95 ERA he compiled that year ranks as the fifth best mark among all Major League relievers who have compiled at least 50 appearances in a season.
Then there will always be the tale of the former pharmaceutical representative from Australia who earned a professional contract during the inaugural World Baseball Classic and then made his Major League debut for the Braves a month later.
Seven years later, Peter Moylan is no longer with the Braves. But the contributions the hilarious and popular sidearm reliever made during his seven seasons with the organization will never be forgotten.
Now the Braves are anxiously awaiting the chance to officially introduce Evan Gattis, who has a story even greater than those that Hammond and Moylan will always have the pleasure of telling.
Gattis is expected to make his Major League debut as he serves as the Braves starting catcher in Wednesday night’s matchup against the Phillies and Roy Halladay. The 26-year-old rookie will have 14 friends and family members in attendance for tonight’s special event.
Among those will be Brian Reinke, the head baseball coach at University of Texas Permian Basin who gave Gattis a chance to begin playing baseball four years after he told his father, Jo, that he would never play again.
Most of you know Gattis’ story. If you don’t click here. If you need a quick refresher, depression led him to walk away from baseball in 2006 and begin a four-year journey as a ski lift operator, cook, janitor and young adult simply trying to find himself. After playing one year at UTPB in 2010, he was drafted by the Braves in the 23rd round of the 2010 Draft.
Two years ago, the Braves did not a spot for Gattis on any of their Minor League rosters at the end of Spring Training. Now the Braves are at least looking at the possibility of carrying Gattis on their big league roster throughout the entirety of this season.
Gattis will behind the plate for at least half the games that Brian McCann misses while recovering from right shoulder surgery. When McCann makes his expected return in late April, the Braves will have to decide if it makes sense to keep Gattis’ bat on their bench as a backup outfielder and third catcher.
There is no doubt Gattis could provide value while being available to serve as a pinch hitter on a nightly basis after McCann returns. But there is certainly reason to argue, the Braves should allow him to play catcher at Gwinnett on a daily basis in preparation for the possibility that he will be Atlanta’s starting catcher after McCann exits via free agency at the end of this season.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s sit back and allow Gattis the chance to prove himself over the next few weeks.
There was no reason to be surprised that he hit .368 with six homers during the Grapefruit League season. On Feb. 25, these fingers typed “If attempting to predict how Gattis will fare during the exhibition season, I’ll say that he will likely hit something north of .380 with at least six home runs.”
So in jest, we can say he did not exactly meet my expectations from the offensive perspective during Spring Training. But he certainly proved to be much better than advertised behind the plate.
Two months ago, I would have said there was an 80 percent chance Christian Bethancourt will be Atlanta’s starting catcher at the start of the 2014 season. But right now, I’d put that percentage at 50 percent.
And if Gattis continues to impress while getting a chance to catch on a consistent basis over the next month, it will hard not to consider him to definite favorite to begin next year as Atlanta’s everyday catcher.