Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt’s reputation as a top prospect has taken a hit but he’ll get another chance to show he belongs in the big leagues.
The Braves recalled Bethancourt on Monday after he‘d been at Triple-A Gwinnett since June 15. Bethancourt was in the lineup for the series opener against the Rockies at Turner Field.
“I think the biggest thing is we need to find out how good this guy can be,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I always thought the catcher position takes a little longer to develop and this guy is only 23-years old and he may not get it until he’s 25 or 26. There’s a lot of responsibility with that catcher position.”
The Braves felt Bethancourt didn’t handle those responsibilities well during two stints in 2014 and for the first two months of this season. He struggled defensively and also didn’t take to the leadership role required for his position.
Gonzalez said Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker reported that Bethancourt was “running the game and running the pitching staff as good as anybody he’s seen” in Triple-A.
“Get ready with the pitcher and the relievers and going through their lineup, stuff that I needed to learn and needed to get done, and I think I did that,” Bethancourt said.
Gonzalez long has said he’s more concerned with Bethancourt’s leadership and defense than his hitting but the catcher was producing for the G-Braves. In 52 games he hit .327 with a .359 on-base percentage and a .480 slugging percentage.
Bethancourt also cut down on his passed balls at Gwinnett. He was charged with one passed ball in 425 1/3 innings after he had six in 260 1/3 innings in 2014 and five in 236 1/3 innings this season for the Braves.
Bethancourt’s strong arm is his best attribute. He’s thrown out 35 percent of potential base stealers (11 of 31) in the big leagues and got 44 percent of attempted base stealers (14 of 32) at Gwinnett this season.
Baseball America rated Bethancourt as the Braves’ No. 3 prospect after last season (and before they acquired several touted prospects in trades). It was somewhat surprising when they sent him back to Gwinnett.
“It wasn’t about a humbling or sending a message or any of that kind of stuff,” Gonzalez said. “It was about getting this guy right. I know that position takes a little longer to develop and maybe he wasn’t quite ready to take that responsibility.”
Gonzalez said Bethancourt is scheduled to start on Wednesday, with A.J. Pierzynski set to be in the lineup on Tuesday.
“Nobody wants to be in Triple-A but for me it was good to be back there and start over and start refreshed,” Bethancourt said. “Now it’s a new opportunity. Basically I’m going to start from zero and it’s what I do from now on.”
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