Christian Bethancourt is a young catcher but at the ripe age of 22 he has served as the Braves’ main catcher for three weeks and counting in Evan Gattis’ absence.
As of Saturday afternoon Bethancourt has caught 12 of the Braves’ 16 games since he was called up to the majors on June 28. Veteran catcher Gerald Laird has caught four games to give the rookie a break.
In the 12 games Bethancourt has had 47 at-bats, three RBIs and 12 hits. Bethancourt’s new major league batting average of .250 is not far off from the .268 average he has earned in seven seasons in the minors. Behind the plate, Bethancourt has totaled 75 putouts, six assists and two double plays over the 108 innings he’s caught.
He said he’s received positive feedback from all of his teammates whether it’s in the dugout after a good at-bat or in the locker room after a solid night of catching with clutch defensive plays. Bethancourt’s major league success has increased his self-confidence as well as manager Fredi Gonzalez’s confidence in him.
“Now he knows, and we know, that he can play up here at the major-league level,” Gonzalez said. “That is comforting to see that when we bring a young kid up, whether it’s a position player or a pitcher, and run him in there and they do a good job.”
The Bethancourt and Evan Gattis switch has nearly come full circle. Gattis has played in two Gwinnett Braves games as of Saturday. He played as a designated hitter on Thursday and he caught the G-Braves’ first five innings on Friday night.
Bethancourt said he hasn’t had much contact with his former teammates in Gwinnett and is unsure how the locker room has received Gattis but he has chatted with him in the Braves clubhouse while Gattis was resting before he started his rehab assignment.
Bethancourt said he and Gattis didn’t talk about the situation the two were in or about Gattis’ injury but instead they talked as friends about their time together in the minor leagues. The two were teammates in the minor leagues from 2011 to 2012.
“Finally we’re here together again…but not necessarily in the position we wanted,” Bethancourt said.
Gonzalez has said the plan if for Gattis to return to catching for the big league Braves on Monday against the Miami Marlins.
“Things happen when they are supposed to happen and when he’s ready to come back they’ll know what they’ll have to do and I’ll respect their decision,” Bethancourt said. “Everybody wants to be in the big leagues but we all can’t be in the big leagues. Some of us have to go down and some stay up but those are decisions the office makes and we as players should respect those decisions.”
Though Bethancourt’s days in the Braves clubhouse appear to be numbered, as they have been from the start, both Gonzalez and Bethancourt believe this three-week test run is just the start.
“You feel good that if something happens down the road, you can say give me (Tyler) Pastornicky or give me Bethancourt,” Gonzalez said. “That is nice to have instead of give me somebody that I have no idea what will happen up here.”
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