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Pratt joins Braves to mentor McCann

Pratt joins Braves to back up, mentor McCann

ATLANTA -- There's no need for the Braves to explain their expectations to Todd Pratt. He knows all too well that they simply expect to win their division every season.

Since the start of the 1997 season, Pratt has spent all of his time as a member of a National League East team. During each of those nine seasons, he's had to look up in the standings to find the Braves soaring toward another division title.

So as they say, if you can't beat them, join them.

Early Friday afternoon, the Braves announced that they had signed Pratt to a one-year contract. The 38-year-old catcher will serve as a backup and mentor to starting catcher Brian McCann.

"It's an honor for a first-class organization like the Braves to ask you if you want a job," Pratt said. "[Braves manager] Bobby Cox called me and said he's watched me my entire career and knows that it's now my time to come over and join them."

Since making his Major League debut with Philadelphia in 1992, Pratt has played all but one season with either the Phillies or Mets, who have always been members of the NL East. The Braves joined that division before the start of the 1995 season and have since continued a steak that has reached a record 14 consecutive division titles.

"There was never a hatred or anything like that toward the Braves," Pratt said. "You just looked at it as a challenge every year to beat them."

Pratt, who hit .251 with seven homers while making a career-high 49 starts this past season, has spent each of his 13 big-league seasons as a backup. He's looking forward to filling that role behind McCann, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday shortly after reporting to Spring Training.

"I'm excited to work with him and teach him what I can," Pratt said. "I'm going to be the best that I can be for the Braves and the best that I can be for Brian McCann."

As a member of the Phillies in 2001 and 2002, Pratt helped with the development of former Braves catcher Johnny Estrada, who was traded by Atlanta to Arizona earlier this week.

When Estrada was struggling with his injured back this past season, Pratt and Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal thought the Braves might be in trouble.

But after seeing McCann play, the two knew the Braves had something special.

"We said to each other, 'This kid isn't going to be too bad,'" Pratt said. "Then we found out he was just 21 and thought, 'Man, he's going to be really good.'"

While serving as Lieberthal's backup in Philadelphia last year, Pratt made $750,000. Financial terms of his one-year contract with the Braves weren't disclosed.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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