The Braves had an extra catcher on their opening-day roster, but could swap him out for a pitcher soon, manager Brian Snitker said.
But he said that before catcher Tyler Flowers left Thursday’s season opener with discomfort in his left oblique (side) in the second inning.
Veteran Chris Stewart was the third catcher on the opening-day roster, ideally providing Snitker the option of using one of his primary catchers, Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, to pinch-hit for at least the opening series.
It wasn’t immediately known if Flowers would require a stint on the 10-day disabled list.
The Braves carried the extra position player to start the season because they won’t need a fifth starting pitcher in the opening six-game homestand.
Veteran pitcher Anibal Sanchez is set to move into the fifth-starter spot when needed and could be called from Triple-A Gwinnett sooner to pitch out of the bullpen if the Braves decide they need an extra reliever more than they need an extra position player.
Snitker said they would likely wait and see how the pitching holds up at least during the opening series against the Phillies before making a move, though the Flowers situation could change that at least as far as having three catchers was concerned.
The manager likes the idea of possibly using Sanchez, 34, out of the bullpen before his first start. The Braves signed him to a minor league contract late in spring training and released fading veteran Scott Kazmir last week after deciding they were more comfortable with Sanchez and others in the fifth spot, particularly with several pitching prospects waiting in the wings.
“I like his pitchability and what he brings,” Snitker said of Sanchez. “Probably the arsenal isn’t what he had (earlier in his career), but he understands that, and he has the ability to use what he has now effectively. So I think he can probably serve both purposes for a while. That’s the beauty of him.”
Sanchez has plenty of experience starting and relieving and could possibly make one or two relief appearances before his first start, Snitker said. Or if the Braves brought Sanchez up next week and were forced to use him more in an emergency – if a game went long or other relievers weren’t available, for example – Snitker said they could always pluck another pitcher from Triple-A to take the initial turn by the fifth starter.
The Braves won’t require a fifth starter until April 10 at Washington in the 11th game of the season, since they can use four starters without requiring any to pitch on short rest until then because of off days in the schedule on Sunday and April 5.
However, they have also discussed using a fifth starter before April 10. If they used a fifth starter April 8, for instance, the Braves could give No. 1 starter Julio Teheran an extra day of rest between his second and third starts and also allow their first four starters to stay in the same order they’ll have to start the season: Teheran followed by Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy and left-hander Sean Newcomb.
If they wait and use a fifth starter for the first time April 10, he would fall into the No. 3 slot between Foltynewicz and McCarthy.