Braves catcher Evan Gattis had arthroscopic knee surgery in October to remove a dime-sized bone chip. (Reuters)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Braves catcher Evan Gattis hadn’t caught consecutive games this spring until Thursday, and now we know why: He had knee surgery in October, and the team has been careful with his workload behind the plate.
Gattis said that he had arthroscopic surgery to remove what he called a dime-sized bone chip that had been “floating around” in his right knee since around 2006, after he had knee surgery known as the OATS procedure while in junior college.
In that surgery, plugs of healthy cartilage and bone are moved from a non-weight-bearing part of the knee to replace damaged cartilage. Gattis was on crutches for two months, and soon quit junior college and began a nearly four-year period in which he was out of baseball.
Years later, the bone chip would occasionally move to a spot near the bottom of his quadriceps, and the knee would buckle.
“So I had that cleaned out, just smoothed it out,” said Gattis, who had it done soon after the division-series loss to the Dodgers.
He made more starts in left field (47) than catcher (38) in 2013, but started 21 of the first 30 games at catcher — including as many as five in a row — while Brian McCann recovered from shoulder surgery. Gattis led major league rookies with 65 RBIs and ranked second with 21 homers.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to use him as the catcher in 100-110 games, with Gerald Laird catching most of the others.
“It should be fine,” Gattis said of his knee. “It’s just a matter of watching it. I ice both knees every day, just because. So they won’t get swollen or sore. It’s preventive.”
ROSTER CUTS: Pitching prospects Jason Hursh and J.R. Graham were among 17 players trimmed from the Braves’ spring-training roster in the first round of cuts. None was projected to make the opening-day roster when camp began.
Right-handers Aaron Northcraft and Wirfin Obispo and left-hander Carlos Perez were on the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.
The others were reassigned to minor league camp: lefty Daniel Rodriguez, right-handers Hursh, Graham, Lay Batista, Mark Lamm, Cody Martin, Yunesky Maya and Shae Simmons; catchers Matt Kennelly, Braeden Schlehuber and Jose Yepez; infielders Mark Hamilton and Edward Salcedo, and outfielder Matt Lipka.
HALE IMPRESSES: The Braves plan to have David Hale in their injury-depleted starting rotation to begin the season, and the rookie from Marietta pitched Friday like he’s ready despite having only two major league games under his belt.
He was charged with three hits, one run and one walk with three strikeouts in four innings of a 6-1 Grapefruit League win against Tampa Bay, and his line could have been even better: He was perfect through two innings and all the hits came in the third, including a fly-ball single to center that B.J. Upton appeared to misread, and a broken-bat hit.
“The ball started sinking towards the end, which is what I’m looking to see at this point of the year,” said Hale, 26, who was a longshot candidate for the rotation entering camp, before a rash of injuries.
A third-round draft pick out of Princeton in 2009, Hale his first major league call-up in September and went 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in two starts for the Braves.
“Obviously his fastball is his best pitch, command-wise, but he’s able to throw a slider for strikes, and change-ups,” Laird said. “He gave up a couple of broken-bat hits and gave up a run, but for the most part you saw a lot of bad swings and some guys on their front foot. He’s young, but he’s got good stuff.”
BIG DAY: Joey Terdoslavich is competing for the last spot on the Braves’ bench, and Friday he came off the bench and strengthened his case. He put the Braves ahead with a sixth-inning solo homer, then doubled to drive in two more runs for a 4-1 lead in the eighth. Ernesto Mejia followed the double with a two-run homer.
Terdoslavich, Tyler Greene and Jose Constanza are leading candidates for one open spot on the Braves’ bench, with the other four jobs to be filled by Laird, Ramiro Pena, Jordan Schafer and Ryan Doumit.