Braves need Gattis' bat in lineup regularly

Bill Shanks has thoughts on the Evan Gattis and the "occasional" days off.

Evan Gattis began Tuesday with a 16-game hitting streak. He hit .406 in that stretch and increased his overall batting average to .296. He's arguably having the best offensive season of any catcher in baseball – better than Buster Posey, better than Yadier Molina and even better than his ex-teammate, Brian McCann.

So why exactly was Gattis on the bench Tuesday night against the Phillies?

The reason given by the Atlanta manager was that Gattis had played four straight games. It might have had more to do with the fact Gattis was not exactly on the same page as Ervin Santana in his last start. Santana has struggled, so maybe it was more about wanting a veteran like Gerald Laird in there than anything else.

But it's still a problem. The Braves offense needs all the help it can get. So wouldn't you hold off with any scheduled day off for your hottest hitter?

Fredi Gonzalez reportedly told the assembled media Tuesday afternoon that Gattis would play Wednesday's day game and then three of four against the Nationals. Gattis will probably be rested on Sunday, which is a day game after a night game – the normal practice for resting catchers.

But Gonzalez has done more than just normally resting Gattis. Counting Tuesday's game, Gattis had started 47 of the 70 games played by the Braves behind the plate. That's 23 games – almost a third of the season – where the supposed starting catcher has not started.

Gonzalez said before the season he wanted to give Gattis 110 starts or so. But why limit the number of games for your starting catcher? Ok, don't start him every day. Give him the day games off after a night game, or at least put him somewhere else on the diamond instead of behind the plate. Gattis has proven he can hit. It's not like he's young and needs to be protected. It's not like he's old and needs to be protected. He's 27 years old, almost 28. He's a professional athlete that takes care of himself. It's not like he frequents the buffet and needs frequent breaks. This guy needs to play every day, or at least as much as catchers should catch.

Sure, you want Gattis to be fresh later in the year. That makes sense. But that means you give him one or two days off per month, maybe three days off. For him to not start only 67% of the games so far this season makes zero sense.

This offense needs Gattis in there as much as possible. That's why the rumor that floated a few days ago makes sense. The talk, as reported by MLB.com's Mark Bowman, was that the Braves were considering promoting catching prospect Christian Bethancourt, which would force a move of Gattis to left field. Justin Upton would go to right and Jason Heyward would flip to center.

The best part of this rumor is that it would be a way for B.J. Upton to get out of the lineup altogether, which is sorely needed. It would also force a move of Tommy La Stella up in the lineup. But another main consequence is it would keep Gattis in the lineup more regularly.

What's with all these days off, the scheduled days off? Cal Ripken never needed a scheduled day off. If it's an older player, like Chipper Jones two years ago in his last season, then sure give them a day off. But the Braves are rested too much, and the player that needs the most rest (B.J. Upton) is kept in there too much.

Gattis is just too good to have on the bench. He's arguably been Atlanta's best hitter this season, and definitely its most dangerous hitter. This is not the type of lineup that can have a good hitter sitting on the pine.

To paraphrase a line from "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training"… Let Gattis play!


Listen to "The Bill Shanks Show" from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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