Atlanta Braves left fielder Evan Gattis (24) shakes hands with second baseman Dan Uggla after hitting a home run against the New York Mets during the seventh inning at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Mets, 3-1.
ATLANTA — Evan Gattis gave the Braves just what they were hoping for when they sent him to Triple-A to get some at-bats — production and a little momentum on his return to Atlanta.
After getting two hits in each of the three games over the weekend in Charlotte, Gattis got two hits in his first two at-bats in his return to the Braves lineup Tuesday night. In this third at-bat? He homered for the first time since July 24, hitting the game-tying shot in an eventual 3-1 win.
“I felt fixed before leaving,” said Gattis, who went 6 for 13 with three doubles and a homer in Gwinnett. “It’s good to go there and really kind of put it in action. And from there, yeah, definitely good to have a good night here — first one especially.”
Gattis had been working on staying aggressive at the plate and that approach worked out well for him Tuesday night. He singled on the first pitch in each of his first two at-bats on his way to a 3-for-3 night.
“It’s nothing more than getting ready to hit,” Gattis said. “And ‘this is going to be my pitch.’ Whatever happens after that, we’ll see. It’s not guessing or wondering if this is going to be a strike or a slider or whatever. It’s too much thinking. You don’t have time, you know? Usually when I’ve gotten away from that approach is when I’ve struggled.”
Gattis reached folk hero status after hitting 12 home runs the first two months of his rookie season but cooled the past few months. He had been hitting only .188 (22-for-117) since June 1, including 0-for-17 entering Tuesday.
Gattis hadn’t played for five days when the Braves sent him down. Gonzalez said the Braves had been thinking about the move since the team returned from St. Louis on Aug. 25. As it was, they waited until after Friday night, when the Braves hosted the “El Oso Blanco night” promotion in his honor.
“It’s funny,” said Gattis of the timing, after his family had flown in from Dallas, Texas for the occasion. “The world has a sense of humor.”
Gonzalez plans to start Gattis in left field again Wednesday against the Mets and to play him in two of the three games over the weekend in Philadelphia against Phillies left-handers Cliff Lee (Friday) and Cole Hamels (Sunday).
Gattis was the last in a line of September call-ups that started with his roster replacement Jose Constanza Saturday, followed by pitchers Freddy Garcia and Kameron Loe since then. Gonzalez said the Braves might add one more position player, but he wasn’t sure when.
The Double-A Mississippi Braves are set to begin a best-of-five Southern League playoff series Thursday. Second baseman Tommy La Stella is hitting .343 in 81 games this season and a candidate to get the nod over fellow Double-A prospect, catcher Christian Bethancourt. Gonzalez has said the Braves don’t need more than the three catchers already on the roster with Brian McCann, Gattis and Gerald Laird.
Gonzalez is not a proponent of mass call-ups, which is why the Braves called up Constanza and not Todd Cunningham — they fill similar roles but Constanza is more experienced.
“You start getting to where you’ve got too many guys,” Gonzalez said. “Guys are bouncing off each other, and I think it becomes counterproductive.”
HEYWARD CLEARED TO HIT OFF TEE: Jason Heyward isn’t chewing solid food yet, but he did get a pleasant surprise during a visit to the oral surgeon Tuesday. He was cleared to begin playing some catch and swinging at balls off a tee.
Heyward’s first “baseball activity” came less than two weeks after he fractured his jaw taking a Jonathan Niese fastball to the face Aug. 21. He underwent surgery Aug. 22 and has been wearing braces with rubber bands to hold his jaws in place.
Heyward tested out a helmet with a protective flap over his jaw and took some swings off a tee in the indoor cages Tuesday. He also played some catch with B.J. Upton in front of the Braves dugout.
“I was excited to get the process started,” Heyward said. “It happened sooner that I would have expected.”
The Braves are hoping Heyward can get some at-bats in instructional league and return to the majors before the regular season is out. They haven’t set any kind of a timetable yet, and Heyward has just said his goal is returning for the playoffs. This was an encouraging first step.
So was the fact that his diet is expanding too. Heyward is no longer on the protein shake and ice cream-only diet. He’s added some solid foods that have been pureed or ground up.
“I ate Chick-fil-A the other day, and I cried,” Heyward said.