Evan Gattis has taken the first steps towards returning to the Atlanta Braves, but the organization doesn’t seem quite ready to declare when he’ll be activated from the disabled list. He’s eligible to come off the DL as soon as the season’s second half begins. Gattis has been sidelined since June 28 with a bulging disk in his upper back.
According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, team doctors evaluated Gattis on Thursday and gave him the go-ahead to start swinging the bat again. He hit some balls off a tee Friday, before taking batting practice on the field. He has yet to begin a rehab assignment and while the team doesn’t seem to have a formal plan in place, that could potentially begin as early as Tuesday.
“He’ll do the same workout today and then just keep ramping him up that way,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Saturday morning. “Rome (the team’s Class-A affiliate) doesn’t play Monday, they play Tuesday. But we haven’t talked about any of that rehab assignment stuff yet.”
Prior to the injury Gattis had been batting .290/.342/.558 on the year, with 16 HR in 243 plate appearances. He’d spent nearly the whole season behind the plate for the Braves after splitting time last season between catcher and left field. Various reports have suggested that the team would prefer to keep him in the one position.
When Gattis returns, the Braves will have an challenging question to address. Christian Bethancourt, arguably one of the top defensive catching prospects in baseball, has been producing well since being called up by the team. He’s batting .256/.304/.279 and has hits in nine of his first eleven games. Offensively he’s looked more comfortable than expected. There’s reason to believe that he could stick with Atlanta’s major league club, sharing playing time with Gattis, rather than head back to the minor leagues. That would leave veteran Gerald Laird as a likely candidate to be let go instead.