Gattis optimistic for short recovery period
Braves catcher placed on 15-day DL with bulging thoracic disk
ATLANTA -- Evan Gattis will have to wait at least one more year to potentially participate in what would be his first All-Star Game. But the Braves hope their power-hitting catcher can resume his role in a tightly contested NL East race in the latter half of July.
The Braves placed Gattis on the 15-day disabled list with a bulging thoracic disk on Monday. He will receive an epidural in the coming days, but there is not much planned for him beyond that except for rest.
Although there is no set timetable, Gattis said the injury likely will not require surgery, and he believes that his recovery period "won't be too long term."
However, Gattis did voice succinctly how most Braves fans must feel about this unfortunate bit of news: "Obviously disappointing."
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez was hopeful that rest would do the trick after Gattis exited the first inning of a game at Citizens Bank Park on June 27. However, he was forced to mutter the words few skippers want to say about an injury.
"I guess it was worse than what we thought."
"We thought it was muscular, but I guess it was a bulging disk," Gonzalez said. "He's going to sit out for a little bit and get that straightened out."
When asked about a potential timetable for Gattis' return, Gonzalez joked, "You're asking the wrong guy. I barely know the infield fly rule," referring to the costly controversial call in the Braves' NL Wild Card playoff loss to the Cardinals in 2012.
A little humor could go a long way as the Braves prepare for an indefinite stretch without their best offensive threat. Atlanta ranks among the five worst teams in the Majors in runs scored, batting average and on-base percentage.
Gattis leads the team -- and all MLB catchers -- with 16 home runs, and his .290 batting average and .900 OPS also pace the Braves. His 15.6 at-bats per homer outdo the 18.7 of Javy Lopez, who holds the franchise record for most homers by a catcher.
Perhaps most frustratingly, the injury took Gattis down at the height of his powers. He recently compiled a career-best 20-game hitting streak that set a franchise record for catchers in an organization that was established in 1871.
Gattis batted .386 (32-for-83) with eight homers, 21 RBIs, a 1.150 OPS and nine multi-hit games during the streak. He had helped Atlanta make a smooth transition after losing 10-year veteran Brian McCann to the Yankees in free agency.
"It's a huge blow to lose anybody like that who comes to the field every day and wants to play," Jason Heyward said. "He's dangerous in the box and he's hungry. He wants to get it done every night on both sides of the ball. We've seen him take some big strides this year behind the plate and at the dish. We're going to miss that."
If the Braves can take any solace in losing Gattis, it is the defensive advantage the tandem of Gerald Laird and Christian Bethancourt will provide. Gattis has thrown out only nine of 40 would-be basestealers and has five errors and three passed balls.
Bethancourt's defensive skills have long been Major League-ready, and although Laird has five passed balls this season, he has just one error to his name and has caught as many runners stealing as Gattis in 16 fewer attempts.
Regardless of the potential defensive upswing, Gattis will be missed. It will hurt to be without him as the Braves cling to a half-game lead in the NL East, but they know their backstop is determined to put this injury behind him and get back on the field.
"I'm just ready to get back as soon as I can," Gattis said. "I'm not really sure on a timetable, but personally, I don't think it will be very long."
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.