The Atlanta Braves will be welcoming back All-Star catcher Brian McCann back to the lineup on Monday night against the Cincinnati Reds, which means a changing of roles will be in store for Evan Gattis.
Obviously, both McCann and Gattis can’t start at catcher. Gattis has spent time playing left field in the minors and has played some at first base this season at the MLB level. The obvious move for the immediate future is playing Gattis in left field and shifting Justin Upton over to right field — his natural position. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has already made plans for that for Monday night:
Tonight’s lineup at CIN (7:10, SS/ESPN/680AM/BRN): BUpton 8 CJohnson 5 JUpton 9 Freeman 3 Gattis 7 McCann 2 Uggla 4 Simmons 6 Maholm 1
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) May 6, 2013
Gonzalez will likely ease McCann back into the everyday starter and has the luxury of plugging in an offensive threat with Gattis. After Jason Heyward returns from the disabled list, playing time will become much trickier.
McCann is the six-time All-Star and the proven veteran. However, the impact Gattis has had during his short time in Atlanta is undeniable. He possesses arguably the most sheer power on the roster, which is quite the feat.
Therefore, I’d still look for Gattis to get three starts a week once the Braves have everyone healthy. Gonzalez can give McCann multiple off days and not suffer from a drop-off in production. More days off should equal a fresher McCann for the stretch run, which has traditionally been McCann’s worst months as a hitter.
He can also give one of his outfielders or first baseman Freddie Freeman a day off on occasion. Gonzalez can sit Freeman or Heyward against a left-handed pitcher as Gattis is hitting .348 with a 1.167 OPS against them in 2013. Justin Upton could stand to get a single day off this season — something he hasn’t got to this point.
On the surface, it appears Gattis will be the odd man out when everyone returns from injury. However, there will still be a vital role for the slugger. He’s too good not to see the field on a somewhat regular basis.