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Braves thinking Gattis could catch on as catcher


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez was pleased with the way Evan Gattis handled himself while playing catcher for the first five innings of Thursday's 10-5 loss to the Phillies at Bright House Field.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding how he would be best used, Gattis is one of the most intriguing players in camp. Last year the 26-year-old slugger was used solely as a catcher until the Braves began giving him some time in the outfield while he played with Double-A Mississippi.

The Braves have discussed the possibility of carrying Gattis on the roster as a third catcher who would be available to pinch-hit and play either left field or first base if necessary. But the more the coaches have seen him hit, the more intrigued they have become with learning how well he might be able to handle the catcher's position.

Although Gattis has never drawn rave reviews for his defensive abilities behind the plate, multiple scouts and members of the Braves organization believe he would be at least as effective as some current big league catchers.

"You don't need him to win the Gold Glove or anything," Gonzalez said. "He's serviceable."

If Gattis continues to inspire confidence about his catching abilities over the remainder of Spring Training, there is at least an outside chance that his bat could earn him a chance to share the position with Gerald Laird until Brian McCann returns sometime in April.

Gattis combined to hit .305 with 18 home runs and a .607 slugging percentage while primarily playing for Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Mississippi last year. He then hit .303 with 16 home runs and a .595 slugging percentage in the Venezuelan Winter League. Through his first 16 at-bats of the Grapefruit League season, he has seven hits, including two doubles and a homer.

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