Braves notes: Gattis goes deep twice

Sensing that his dream of playing in the majors could be near, Evan Gattis in the past week or so did what others have done in similar situations. The Braves catcher began trying too hard.

“El Oso Blanco” relaxed and resumed pillaging pitchers Friday, hitting two long home runs and going 3-for-4 with three RBIs in the Braves’ 7-6 Grapefruit League loss to the Phillies at Bright House Field.

“Just get back to playing baseball,” said Gattis, who unloaded on left-hander Adam Morgan in the fifth inning and ex-Braves right-hander Chad Durbin in the sixth.

Gattis has hit .391 (18-for-46) with five doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs and leads the Braves in slugging percentage (.761) and OPS (1.169). His nine extra-base hits are tied with Freddie Freeman for the team lead.

He said he worked with hitting coach Greg Walker and assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher on an adjustment to his swing this week, getting some of his weight off his back leg.

“Just tinkering with stuff and trying not to press so hard,” said Gattis, who could make the team as a catcher to begin the season and possibly as a third catcher and extra outfielder later.

“Gattis got his swing back again, which is good to see,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Two home runs and a little bloop that he muscled out there. And he caught the ball well. Good, productive day.”

With catcher Brian McCann recovering from shoulder surgery and likely to miss at least the first three weeks of the season, Gattis is expected to make the opening-day roster, along with catcher Gerald Laird. It’s uncertain how the Braves will split the catching duties until McCann returns, but Gattis — assuming he’s on the team — might get more than a start or two per week.

The Braves want him on the team for his bat, and if he keeps hitting, it will be hard to keep him out of the lineup, especially since his defense hasn’t been the problem some thought it might be.

“He’s good,” said veteran left-hander Paul Maholm, who was charged with seven hits, two walks and four runs in six innings, all the runs unearned after errors by third baseman Chris Johnson and second baseman Dan Uggla.

“I thought him and Pauley worked well together,” Gonzalez said. “Pauley did a nice job. We made some misplays behind him that cost four runs, but I thought he pitched well.”

Gattis got his nickname — Spanish for “White Bear” — during winter ball in Venezuela, where the 240-pound Texan hit .303, tied for the league lead with 16 homers in 195 at-bats and had a league-best .595 slugging percentage.

His first homer Friday landed on a thatched roof of Frenchy’s Tiki Bar beyond left field. His homer in the sixth easily cleared the left-field fence, a couple of pitches after a mammoth fly that hooked foul and sailed farther than either home run.

“Kind of strong,” Maholm said, smiling at his understatement. “He mis-hit a couple of balls and drove them out. That’s pretty impressive to watch. The foul ball was probably more impressive.”

Other Upton goes deep: A day after Justin Upton hit a towering homer over the 60-foot scoreboard wall at Champion Stadium, his brother B.J. Upton hit his second homer of the spring Friday against the Phillies.

His solo homer in the seventh inning gave the Braves a 5-4 lead, which they extended in the eighth before journeyman left-hander Daniel Rodriguez gave up three runs, including a pair of homers in the last two innings.

Upton has hit .377 with six doubles and two homers in 61 at-bats. He hasn’t drawn a walk and has 11 strikeouts, only the seventh-most strikeouts on a team that has three with at least 15 — Uggla (20), Justin Upton (17) and Juan Francisco (15).

Manager Fredi Gonzalez has played the outfield trio of the Uptons and Jason Heyward together in spring games, but made an exception to let B.J. Upton rest Thursday when the other two played, so he could play Friday in Clearwater and in Saturday’s split-squad game in Dunedin, both close to his home in Tampa.

Upton has commuted to Braves camp throughout spring training.

Etc.: Uggla made his team-high sixth error in the fourth inning and three unearned runs followed. He has hit .210 with one extra-base hit, three walks and 20 strikeouts in 62 at-bats. … The Braves have their last split-squad day Saturday. Julio Teheran starts against the Astros at Champion Stadium, and prospect Sean Gilmartin against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Next roster cuts are likely by Sunday. … Jonny Venters, who hasn't pitched since a four-walk inning March 13, will throw in a minor league game Saturday. … Cory Gearrin threw in a minor league game Friday, giving him appearances in back-to-back games.