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Updated: 7:01 a.m. Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | Posted: 6:35 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gattis keeps slugging in bid for Braves bench job

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By David O'Brien

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Evan Gattis continued his spring pillaging Tuesday when the Braves bench candidate went 2-for-2 with two doubles and three RBIs in a 12-3 win against St. Louis.

The catcher/left fielder entered in the seventh inning and doubled in both of his plate appearances, including a bases-loaded line drive in the eighth inning on a first-pitch 97-mph fastball from Cardinals closer Jason Motte. Gattis pulled that ball to left field, bouncing it over the fence.

Making a strong push for a spot on the opening-day roster, Gattis is 13-for-28 (.464) with five doubles, two homers and team-highs in RBIs (10) and slugging percentage (.857).

“We know he can (hit), and what I’ve been impressed with is that he can catch, too,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, who brought him in to catch the late innings. “It’s been nice to see all those things.”

O’Flaherty debut: Making his spring debut after missing time with a strained groin, Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty had an eventful sixth inning but came away unscathed. He gave up a leadoff groundball single, then was charged with a throwing error after he slipped fielding a slow-rolling single.

O’Flaherty preserved a 4-0 lead, getting out of the inning after Adron Chambers was caught trying to steal home, Allen Craig struck out, and Ty Wigginton hit a flyball that center fielder Jordan Schafer raced back and caught at the wall.

“More than anything just exciting to be out there, feel like I was part of the team again,” said O’Flaherty, who should have enough time to get ready for the season with spring training a week longer than usual.

Roster moves: The Braves made their first cuts of spring training, trimming 10 from the camp roster. Pitcher Cory Rasmus was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett, and pitchers Juan Jaime and Aaron Northcraft were optioned to Double-A Mississippi. The others were re-assigned to minor league camp: pitchers Ryan Buchter, Yohan Flande and Gus Schlosser; catchers Luis De La Cruz, Braeden Schlehuber and Jose Yepez, and infielder Joe Leonard.

Short hops: Lefty Luis Avilan, after allowing only four hits and in 6-1/3 scoreless innings over his first six appearances, gave up four hits and three runs in the sixth inning Tuesday… Gonzalez said of Jordan Schafer’s running catch of Wigginton’s flyball at the wall, “There’s not too many center fielders that make that play. He’s valuable.”…The Braves will pay tribute to two-time former MVP Dale Murphy on July 11 with a ceremony before a Thursday night game against Cincinnati at Turner Field. The first 20,000 fans will get Murphy bobblehead dolls.

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