Braves now have a chance to evaluate where Bethancourt stands
Though this arrangement does not jive with the plans they had kicked around over the past couple of weeks, the Braves are now going to get a chance to get a better feel about whether Christian Bethancourt might be ready to handle the everyday catching duties at the Major League level. They just were hoping to be able to do so while still having Evan Gattis’ bat in their lineup.
As Gattis spends at least the next couple weeks sidelined by a bulging thoracic disc in his back, the Braves will attempt to compensate for his significant absence from the middle of their lineup. At the same time, they should be stronger from a defensive perspective behind the plate. But as we saw again last night with Alex Wood on the mound, Bethancourt certainly is not immune to those same communication issues that Gattis has had with at least three members of Atlanta’s rotation.
The difference last night was Wood proved to be much more mature than Teheran was when he visibly showed his frustration for a few innings and then ultimately looked foolish as he balked during the sixth inning of his June 21 start against the Nationals.
With that being said, it will take some time for Bethancourt to get a feel for the preferences and tendencies possessed by some of Atlanta’s pitchers. Like when this issue with Gattis popped up in D.C. last week, it seems important to point out that this past winter Brian McCann told me it took him nearly four seasons before he truly became comfortable and confident calling a Major League game.
So, yeah, there might still be some growing pains as Bethancourt introduces himself to the big league level while sharing the catching duties with Gerald Laird. But at the same time, with these two handling the catching duties opponents are likely going to be much more hesitant to run.
Gattis threw out just nine of the 40 opponents who tried to steal against him this season. Laird has retired eight of the 15 baserunners who have tried to steal with him behind the plate. As for Bethancourt, his arm has obviousy always been that special gift that has set him apart.
Had the Braves ever opted to send Gattis to left field to create a spot for Bethancourt, they would have certainly weakened their outfield defense. But let’s not forget those talks had as much to do about a couple lackadaisical plays B.J. Upton made in the field as they did Gattis’ shortcomings behind the plate.
Since making a pair of blunders when the Angels were in Atlanta a couple weeks ago, B.J. has been much more valuable in the glove. In fact, he’s actually looked much more like the guy the Braves described when they heralded his glove work upon giving him a five-year, $75.25 million contract before the 2013 season.
I’m certainly still not sold (and quite frankly Fredi G. probably isn’t either) on B.J. in the leadoff spot. But given the fact that the Braves are 7-1 since Upton was moved to the top of their lineup, he’s certainly not going anywhere else within the next day or two. As he has hit safely in each of these seven games, Upton has batted .267 with a .313 on-base percentage.