Bethancourt joins Braves in Miami - updated

September is a chance for the Braves to get a glimpse at some of their top prospects for the future and now is that chance for catcher Christian Bethancourt, who joined the Braves in Miami Monday after getting his first major-league call-up.

With Brian McCann likely headed for free agency, Bethancourt is a candidate to join Evan Gattis on the roster as the Braves’ top two catchers next season. Bethancourt, an undeniable defensive talent, has spent this season in Double-A Mississippi working on his consistency at the plate and he responded by hitting .277 (99-for-358) with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs.

“We think the world of him defensively,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He had a nice year offensively in Double-A and their season just got him over with. Bring him up here and let him get some experience.”

Bethancourt is the fourth catcher on the Braves roster, so Gonzalez didn’t promise there would be much of an opportunity for playing time, but they wanted him up for the experience.

“If we can plug him in some place I’d like to do that but we’ve got to take care of some other business first,” Gonzalez said. “But at the very least he can be around the big league atmosphere and experience the guys and that kind of stuff.”

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Bethancourt got the news Sunday night on the bus ride from Mobile, Ala. to Pearl, Miss. after the Mississippi Braves lost 15-0 to get knocked out of the Southern League playoffs. Bethancourt said Mississippi manager Aaron Holbert asked him to stand up on the bus and address his teammates about the season, so he shared a few words of motivation and then went to sit down.

“I was walking back to my seat and he said ‘Hey one more thing, tell the guys you’re going to the majors,’” Bethancourt said. “I was just shocked. I didn’t know what to say. I asked him ‘Are you serious?’ And he’s like ‘Yeah, you’re going to the majors. You’re leaving tomorrow.’”

Bethancourt, who turns 22 on Sept. 21, was selected to two consecutive Futures Games as one of the top prospects in the minor leagues. He’s an athletic catcher with a dynamic arm but the Braves wanted him to continue to progress offensively. This was his second season in Double-A, after he hit .243 in 71 games of an injury-riddled 2012 season.

“The main thing this year for me to try to be consistent every game, try to be consistent with my discipline at the plate, try to hit better pitches,” said Bethancourt, who went 5-for-13 in the playoff series against Mobile.

He had been making plans to return to his native Panama City in the next day or so. Instead, now, his mother is making plans to make the four-hour flight to Miami on Tuesday.

“When you grow up watching baseball, playing baseball, that’s all that matters - to get to the majors,” Bethancourt said. “And when you get here, it’s a dream come true.”

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