Evan Gattis had his epidural as planned Tuesday for the bulging disc in his thoracic spine, but the burly Braves catcher apparently felt none of the initial pain that many patients report after the injection with a long epidural needle.
Gattis, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday, was in the dugout for part of Tuesday night’s game.
“Yeah, he came in and was explaining to me the whole (epidiural) procedure,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He could see what was going on in the camera. They’ve got to figure out where that needle is going. He said, ‘Man, it was that close to my spinal cord.’ But he felt good. He said there’s no pain or anything like that.”
A reporter jokingly asked Gonzalez if 250-pound Gattis, whose nickname is El Oso Blanco – “the White Bear” – had been given an animal tranquilizer before the procedure.
“They went to Dr. Goode’s veterinary (clinic),” Gonzalez cracked, referring to a vet in Marietta, where the manager lives. “While he was out they checked his teeth, too.”
The Braves have given no estimated date for Gattis’ return, and bulging discs in the thoracic spine can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to heal, assuming they don’t require surgery. Gattis was told that 90-95 percent of patients with his degree of injury don’t require surgery, and Braves doctors have said it’s highly unlikely he would need it.
Gonzalez was asked Wednesday if it might be easier for Gattis to play in the outfield when he returns, given the nature of his injury. He split time between left field and catcher as a rookie in 2013, but hasn’t played any outfield this season.
“I haven’t entertained the idea of him coming back as an outfielder,” Gonzalez said. “We won’t know when he’s coming back until, I think they told me the epidural takes three or four or five days, and then we will get a better timetable.”
The hope is that Gattis could return soon after the July 14-17 All-Star break. He leads the Braves with a .900 OPS and .558 slugging percentage and was tied for the team lead in both batting average (.290) and home runs (16) before Wednesday, and his homer total also was tops among major league catchers.