Much as he was enjoying a playoff run with the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves, journeyman catcher Blake Lalli was thrilled when told late Saturday he was going back to the big leagues for the first time since 2013.
Lalli, 33, was brought up to replace A.J. Pierzynski, who went on the 15-day disabled list Sunday and quite possibly played his final game.
Lalli hit .256 with 22 doubles, one home run and 36 RBIs in 109 games this season for Gwinnett, which clinched a spot in the International League finals with a 5-4, semifinal series-clinching win Friday night over Columbus.
He was jusing finishing a celebration with teammates in a champagne-sprayed clubhouse when Lalli was told by Gwinnett manager John Moses that the Braves had summoned him to the big club.
“Yeah, it is bittersweet because what we were doing (at Gwinnett) was just so much fun,” Lalli said, “and like, everyone’s on board with winning, and we are winning. It was fun. But the ultimate goal for your career, why you put in all the work, is to get here. So yeah, I’m very happy to be here.”
He was getting settled into a locker stall in the Braves clubhouse at Turner Field Sunday morning as various former Gwinnett teammates stopped by to give him a congratulatory handshake or shoulder bump.
“Yeah, I know a lot of them from spring (training) and know a lot of them from Gwinnett,” he said. “And I’ve been playing for a long time now, in baseball you run into people. Eleven years, so….”
Lalli last played in the majors for Milwaukee on May 14, 2013. He had a .125 average and four RBIs in 40 career plate appearances in the big leagues before Sunday, including six games with the Cubs in 2012 and 16 games with the Brewers in 2013.
The Braves still had two catchers, Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker, who split most of the duties recently even when Pierzysnki was on the active roster. But with rosters expanded in September, they wanted to be sure they were covered in case of injury by having three catchers, which also enables manager Brian Snitker to use one as a pinch-hitter.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.