Infielder Blake DeWitt’s back flared up on him, a recurrence of an old injury, so the Braves put him on the disabled list Saturday and took the opportunity to bolster their bullpen for the last two games of the Pirates series.
The Braves recalled right-hander David Carpenter from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Carpenter will provide some depth for the Braves bullpen, which is a little thin given that Luis Avilan needed to rest a hamstring strain and the innings logged recently by Anthony Varvaro and Luis Ayala. Varvara threw three innings combined in the first two games vs. Pirates, and Ayala pitched two innings Wednesday against the Royals and 1 1/3 innings on Friday in Pittsburgh.
The Braves had contemplated putting Avilan on the disabled list Sunday before their trip to Colorado, wanting a staff at full strength for Coors Field. But he has shown so much progress in the past two days that Gonzalez said Avilan could pitch in an emergency on Saturday and would likely be available on Sunday.
This is after Avilan went to the ground Tuesday night attempting a pitch against the Royals, grabbing his hamstring, and was carted off the field. The Braves got the best-case scenario from a left-hander they’ve come to count on in a set-up role.
He threw his second 25-pitch bullpen in the past two days Saturday and felt “very, very good.”
“Avilan’s bullpen today was really, really encouraging,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “(Pitching coach) Roger (McDowell) was really encouraged that he could finish his delivery and defend himself if he needs to on the mound and on a bunt or something like that.”
DeWitt missed the second half of last season in the Cubs organization with a lower back strain. He’d gone 1-for-3 with a double and a key sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning of a come-from-behind win over the Nationals on April 12. But after grounding out in a pinch hit at-bat Friday the Braves knew it was time to take action.
“He wasn’t getting better, the back issues,” Gonzalez said. “He’s going back to get all the workups the MRIs, the whole back thing.”
DeWitt was the emergency third catcher, which enabled Gonzalez to take a gamble and send Evan Gattis to pinch hit in the eighth inning Thursday night for his game-winning two-run homer. But Gonzalez still has another possibility if a similar situation arises in the next couple of games anyway – Carpenter is a converted catcher.
It just so happened Carpenter got his first call-up as a Brave about 90 miles from his hometown of Fairmont, W. Va. The former 12th round pick from the University of West Virginia had eight family members and plenty more friends coming to PNC Park Saturday night.
“Couldn’t have planned it any better myself,” he said.
Carpenter was 1-2 with a 4.76 ERA in four games in Gwinnett, all of them multi-inning outings. The Braves wanted to give him extra innings to work on his secondary pitches, his slider and splitter. He allowed six earned runs in 11 1/3 innings, with three walks and nine strikeouts.
“I had some good outings down there, I had some not so good ones,” Carpenter said. “It’s all part of the process. Hopefully get a chance to come up here and bring my best stuff and see what happens.”
Carpenter, 27, has pitched in 68 major league games in the past two seasons with the Astros and Blue Jays. His best season came in 2011 when he went 1-3 with a 2.98 ERA in 34 games in 2011 and a save for the Astros. The Braves claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox on Nov. 30.