CHICAGO – The Braves got more encouraging news on Evan Gattis when the injured catcher was cleared to start doing some baseball activities and was to spend Friday afternoon taking some swings during a light workout at Single-A Rome.
Gattis is on the 15-day disabled list recovering from a bulging disk and had not swung a bat since his last game June 27, when he took a swing and felt a sharp twinge in his upper back.
Barring any setbacks over the next few days, Gattis could begin an injury-rehab assignment next week, most likely at Rome since Triple-A Gwinnett will have a few days off for next week’s major league All-Star break. Rome is off Monday, then plays three-game series at home against Greenville.
Gattis traveled with the Braves to New York for the first three games of their four-game series against the Mets, and returned to Atlanta on Wednesday for a checkup after getting an epidural injection last week.
“He was supposed to go down there and get checked after the epidural (had time to take effect), and the doc cleared him,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “So we’ll see how he progresses from there.”
Gattis hasn’t played in two weeks and still had the most home runs (16) among major league catchers before Friday. He hit .290 with a .342 OBP and a .900 OPS that ranked second among catchers, behind Cincinnati’s Devin Mesoraco (.974) and ahead of Milwaukee Jonathan Lucroy (.897), who both made the National League All-Star team.
Gattis would likely have made the All-Star team and possibly been selected for the Home Run Derby if not for his injury. His home run rate of one every 14 at-bats would rank as the NL leader if he had enough plate appearances to qualify for rankings.
The Braves had Gattis stay in Georgia and work out with the Rome team rather than rejoin them in Chicago for a weekend series against the Cubs that began Friday. Given the small batting cages and clubhouse at Wrigley Field, the Braves figured it’d be easier for him to stay and work out back in Georgia under the watch of the team’s minor league training staff.
Gonzalez said Gattis would likely just hit balls off a tee or ones flipped to him by a coach Friday, but left open the possibility that he could take some batting practice if he felt up to it, if not Friday then this weekend.
He reiterated that there was no timetable yet for Gattis’ return from the disabled list and the Braves want to remain cautious and not have him rush back before he’s ready.
“I think we’ll wait until this weekend to see how he feels,” Gonzalez said. “He may swing today and not feel good, or he may swing today and say, ‘You know what, maybe tomorrow I can take some BP on the field,’ and progress from there.”