ATLANTA -- Evan Gattis (back) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday night. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez expects the catcher will need at least three games before returning to Atlanta's lineup for the first time since June 27.
Gattis began his path back to health with Class A Rome last week, taking batting practice and going through workouts at State Mutual Stadium beginning Friday. The Braves liked what they saw enough to advance the catcher in the recovery process.
Atlanta is 11-5 since Gattis exited the everyday lineup with back issues on June 27. The club placed him on the disabled list on July 1, retroactive to June 29, once an MRI revealed the catcher had a bulging thoracic disk.
Gonzalez sat Gattis for a few days on advice from a Phillies team doctor when the injury was originally diagnosed as a right rhomboid spasm. In the mean time, the Braves recalled catcher Christian Bethancourt from Gwinnett.
Although Bethancourt and fellow backstop Gerald Laird do not possess the power Gattis brings to the lineup, the duo has proven serviceable offensively as of late.
Bethancourt has batted .256 (11-for-43) with a .304 on-base percentage since joining Atlanta on June 28, while Laird has hit .318 (7-for-22) with a .348 OBP during the same stretch. They have also combined for four doubles and six RBIs in Gattis's absence.
However, Gattis' return should give the Atlanta offense a boost, as he not only leads all MLB catchers with 16 home runs, but his .290 (65-for-224) batting average ranks third among Braves hitters, and his .900 OPS leads the team.
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.