ATLANTA—Despite scuffling through spring training, catcher Evan Gattis set about converting the non-believers with an offensive outburst that carried him to Double-A in May.
The reigning low Class A South Atlantic League batting champion, Gattis had been even more productive this season, hitting .361/.441/.770 through 122 at-bats across two levels. He ranked second in the minors in home runs (13), RBIs (41) and slugging.
He spent April at high Class A Lynchburg but received a quick promotion to Double-A Mississippi on May 1 when catcher Christian Bethancourt strained his hamstring. Gattis batted .318/.388/.682 in his first 11 Southern League games.
"On the last day (of spring training), I saw one pitch and hit a home run," Gattis said. "It felt good to come out like that, and everything has been going well since then."
Gattis, 25, got a late start to his pro career because he spent nearly four years away from the game, touring the country and performing odd jobs. Coming out of high school, he committed to Texas A&M but never made it to campus, and he followed that false start with another when he hurt his knee at Seminole (Okla.) JC and walked away from the game.
Gattis returned to action with NAIA Texas-Permian Basin in 2010, and the Braves drafted him in the 23rd round that June. He earned regular playing time with low Class A Rome in 2011 after Bethancourt received a promotion and hit .322/.386/.601 in 338 at-bats.
Despite his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame, Gattis has above-average athleticism for a catcher, though many scouts believe that he might be a better fit in left field or first base.
"I love catching," Gattis said. "You have to get your footwork right, (and) your throws quick, strong and accurate. There are so many small parts that go into the art of catching, many of which most people don't see."
• The Braves shook up Rome's roster in early May, releasing oft-injured lefthander Cole Rohrbough (5.23 ERA in eight relief outings) and sending southpaw Carlos Perez to extended spring after he went 0-3, 12.79 with 19 walks in 19 innings.
• Rome righty Dave Filak had made strides after a difficult showing in the South Atlantic League last year. Through seven starts, he went 1-2, 1.77 and allowed 25 hits with 45 strikeouts in 36 innings.