SAN DIEGO -- Gerald Laird was behind the plate when Julio Teheran came within four outs of throwing a no-hitter against the Pirates last week. But when Teheran returned to the mound to face the Padres on Monday night, Brian McCann served as his catcher.
Laird had caught nine of Teheran's 11 starts this year. But his days as the young right-hander's primary catcher essentially ended a couple weeks ago when the Braves began using Evan Gattis as McCann's primary backup.
McCann went 0-for-3 with a walk in Monday's 7-6 loss to San Diego, but Gattis hit his fourth pinch-hit homer of the year, a three-run shot in the ninth. Teheran struggled, allowing five earned runs in six innings.
Laird's presence as Atlanta's third catcher provides manager Fredi Gonzalez the freedom to feel more comfortable about using either McCann or Gattis as pinch-hitters when they are not in the starting lineup. If McCann or Gattis exits the game after a pinch-hit appearance, Laird is still available to catch, if necessary.
"If you didn't have [Laird], you could still do it, but it would be a lot more difficult to pinch-hit [McCann or Gattis] in the sixth or seventh," Gonzalez said.
But Laird's value to the Braves extends beyond giving Gonzalez more opportunities to use either Gattis or McCann as a pinch-hitter. Along with hitting .271 in 57 at-bats, he has enriched Atlanta's clubhouse with his veteran leadership.
"He's a guy who everybody enjoys having around," Gonzalez said. "He can get on you in a kind of kidding way, and keep everything loose."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.