Canizares debuts with Norton on DL
With veteran ailing, Braves give young first baseman shot
ATLANTA -- When Greg Norton revealed that his right ankle was ailing on Thursday morning, the Braves took advantage of the fact that their Triple-A affiliate is based approximately 30 minutes north of Turner Field.
At approximately 10:30 a.m. ET, Barbaro Canizares learned that the was getting his first crack in the Majors and less than three hours later, the big Cuban first baseman found himself making his first big league start and serving as the Braves' cleanup hitter.
"We've got a healthy body and a guy who is known as a really good hitter," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of the 29-year-old Canizares, who had hit .344 with eight homers and a .533 slugging percentage in 58 games with Triple-A Gwinnett this year.
With Canizares' cell phone not working, Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage had to deliver the message through left-hander Francisley Bueno, who is currently living with the first baseman in suburban Atlanta.
When Bueno relayed the message, Canizares initially thought it was a joke. But at the end of the whirlwind day that would include his first Major League hit -- a sixth-inning single in a 3-1 loss to the Pirates -- he was able to face the reality that he truly had realized the dream he gained when he left Cuba and signed with the Braves before the start of the 2006 season.
While Canizares has long been considered a defensive liability, he currently stands as the best option for the Braves, who have seen injuries sideline or limit the availability of each of the three third baseman they've utilized over the past two weeks.
With Casey Kotchman on the disabled list until at least Tuesday, the Braves had planned to use Norton and Martin Prado at first base. But Prado's availability became limited when he aggravated his left groin on Sunday.
In Prado's absence, Norton gained his first two starts of the season on Tuesday and Wednesday. But in the process, he twice tweaked his right ankle and went hitless in eight at-bats to drop his batting average to .098 (4-for-41).
While putting Norton on the disabled list with what they termed a strained right ankle, the Braves suddenly opened a roster spot for Canizares, who arrived at Turner Field approximately 40 minutes before the start of Thursday's game.
"He's not know for the glove, but he is OK at first [base]," Cox said. "I'm not going to expect Gold Glove performances over there at first base. But he's been playing there, which is good."
If Prado's sore left groin improves by Friday, Cox may elect to put him back at first base. This would open the opportunity to utilize Canizares as a designated hitter during this weekend's Interleague series in Baltimore.
Canizares, who left Cuba and signed with the Braves before the start of the 2006 season, was given jersey No. 25. Andruw Jones wore that number while playing in Atlanta from 1996-2007.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.