Evan Gattis has been struggling as of late, and the rookie catcher will get some time to heal the next couple of weeks after straining an oblique muscle.
ATLANTA — El Oso Blanco is out of action.
Braves rookie slugger Evan Gattis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle, an injury he sustained while trying to check his swing in the seventh inning of Monday’s 2-1 win against the Mets, which was delayed 3 hours and 43 minutes before the first pitch and ended at 1:22 a.m.
“It just grabbed me on my right side,” the catcher said Tuesday morning. “I didn’t think I could hit again. Catching, I was loose, warming, and (had) adrenaline going.”
Gattis didn’t try to swing again.
He struck out looking in that seventh-inning at-bat, then caught the eighth and ninth innings.
Catcher Brian McCann was on-deck ready to hit for him in the ninth when Freddie Freeman hit a game-ending two-run homer.
The Braves recalled infielder Tyler Pastornicky from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Gattis’ roster spot, and Pastornicky was suited up for Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Mets.
Gattis, whose nickname is El Oso Blanco (“the White Bear”), has become a Paul Bunyan-esque folk hero in his first major league season, batting .252 and leading major league rookies by wide margins in home runs (14) and RBI (37).
He’s played some in left field and first base in addition to catching, and as pinch-hitter, he’s a remarkable 6-for-8 with a double, four homers and 11 RBI.
There had been some speculation that Gattis might be asked to participate in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star festivities next month in Kansas City, but this injury would presumably end any chance of that happening.
Gattis said he hoped to be back as soon as the 15-day DL stint is up.
“I hope to do whatever I can to get out there as soon as I can,” he said.
In his past 11 games, Gattis was 2-for-26 (.077), albeit with two big home runs and five RBIs.
The Braves still have two catchers on their roster with McCann and veteran backup Gerald Laird, but losing Gattis for a while means that manager Fredi Gonzalez won’t be able to pinch-hit with one of his catchers without risking losing the other to an injury later in a game.
“Yeah, you’re going to miss that,” Gonzalez said. “You’re going to miss that with him or McCann, that flexibility you have with three catchers. We’re hoping it’s kind of like Freddie Freeman (who had a strained oblique in April), that we caught it early enough to kind of calm that down and in 15 days he’ll be ready to go. From what (trainer Jeff Porter) tells me, if you’re a right-handed hitter the right side is better than the left side, it’s not as severe.”
Laird said injuries like the one Gattis sustained seem to happen more frequently after extended delays like Monday’s.
“You sit for a while, you play four hours later and they tell you in 10 minutes the game’s starting,” he said. “But it’s one of those things. He’s going to be fine. It just sucks because he’s such a huge contributor to our team, and we wouldn’t be where we’re at without him. But he’s a strong kid. He’s young, he’s healthy, and I think he’ll be back as soon as possible.”
Braves shortstop Simmons shows he’s not immune to making costly errors
ATLANTA — There are times when Andrelton Simmons makes it easy to forget he had just 49 games in the majors before this season. Times when the Braves shortstop looks like the savviest player as well as the best defender on the field.
But the 23-year-old Curacao native is not immune to struggles, and there have been a few games lately when he’s at least slightly resembled a kid who had not played above Double-A until 55 weeks ago, which is what he is.
Simmons has made his usual bevy of spectacular plays this season, but some uncharacteristic mistakes, too. He went 4-for-5 in a game at Cincinnati on May 8 to raise his average to .276, but since then he’s hit .221 in 34 games with one homer, a .245 on-base percentage, and, believe it or not, more errors (six) than walks (five).
He made twice as many errors (six) during a 21-game stretch from May 24 through Saturday as he made in his entire rookie season. Six errors in 21 games, after not making a single error in the Braves’ first 46 games — the last major league shortstop to make his first error this season.
Simmons can’t put a finger on anything that’s contributed to the recent spate of miscues. He takes more pride in defense than anything, but said the errors were a bit easier to take because they hadn’t been costly for the team.
“At least we’re still winning every time I make an error,” he said, correctly. The Braves won all five games in which he made an error, including his two-error game.