CHICAGO — The Braves haven’t announced when Cuban infielder Hector Olivera will be brought up from Triple-A Gwinnett to make his highly anticipated major league debut, but there were indications Sunday that it wouldn’t be until later this week, rather than Monday’s homestand opener.
Team officials want to make sure that Olivera, 30, is ready after recently missing a month due to a hamstring strain. The former Cuban national team and Serie Nacional standout has no major league experience, and the Braves plan to make him their regular third baseman once he’s added to the team.
Olivera was 4-for-29 with no extra-base hits, three walks and three strikeouts in nine injury-rehab games at three different levels before Sunday, including 3-for-12 with a walk and a strikeout in three games at Triple-A Gwinnett after an 0-for-5 game Saturday. He wasn’t in the Gwinnett lineup Sunday.
If Olivera is not called up until later in the week, there’s a chance that catcher Christian Bethancourt rejoins the Braves sooner. Bethancourt has hit well during a long stint at Triple-A Gwinnett — .327 with 23 exra-base hits (four homers) in 52 games — and the Braves plan to recall him soon and have him on their roster the rest of the season.
To get Olivera from the Dodgers, the Braves traded top infield prospect Jose Peraza along with starting pitcher Alex Wood and relievers Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan in a three-team deal July 30. He can play three infield positions (all except shortstop) and left field, and the 6-foot-2, 220-pound slugger impressed Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman with his “light-tower power” during batting-practice sessions with both were rehabbing recently in Florida.
The Dodgers signed Olivera to a six-year, $62.5 million contract last winter, outbidding the Braves, Padres, Marlins and Yankees, after several other teams dropped out of the bidding due to the escalating price tag. The deal included a $28 million signing bonus, which the Dodgers are paying.