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Gattis proving he's more than just big bat

Gattis proving he's more than just big bat

WASHINGTON -- Evan Gattis has garnered the attention of the baseball world while hitting four home runs in the first 30 at-bats of his career. But the Braves have been equally encouraged by how comfortable their pitchers have become while throwing to the 26-year-old rookie catcher.

"He's not an offensive guy who just cares about hitting," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He calls a good game and takes care of the pitchers."

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Entering Spring Training, there was reason to wonder if Gattis' defensive skills were strong enough for him to find an everyday role in the National League. There was always some belief that he had the offensive skills to at least serve as a designated hitter in the American League.

But over the course of the past six weeks, the Braves have grown much more comfortable with the prospect of Gattis handling the catcher's position on a regular basis. There is now a strong chance he could serve as Atlanta's starting catcher after Brian McCann makes his expected departure via free agency this winter.

"We're trying to make it as easy as we can as pitchers," Braves veteran pitcher Tim Hudson said. "He doesn't know anything about the hitters. He's still learning the hitters. But he understands how we like to pitch. He's trying to pick our brains to understand what our strengths are and what we like to do in certain situations.

"I like him back there. He catches well. He receives well. He blocks the ball well. He's good back there around the plate. He's not afraid to throw down a 2-0 changeup. He puts down fingers that ordinarily I might not throw. But I'm like what the [heck]? Let's throw it and get some outs."

Gattis will serve as Atlanta's primary catcher until McCann is cleared to return from right shoulder surgery. Once McCann returns to the lineup, the Braves will have to determine how to continue providing Gattis regular at-bats.

Given the way Gattis has started his career, there will certainly be temptation to keep him on the bench to pinch-hit and serve as a backup option in left field and first base.

Another option would be to send Gattis to the Minors to catch on an everyday basis with Triple-A Gwinnett. But this option has seemingly become more unlikely as the regular season's first two weeks have elapsed.

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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