Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez might not have had a sense of fun when he failed to insert Evan Gattis in his lineup Friday night on “El Oso Blanco” night at Turner Field. But he didn’t miss a beat when he gave his prediction for what might transpire if he brought the “White Bear” off the bench to pinch hit.
“We’ll get him out of hibernation, put him in the right spot, and he’ll make a big splash,” Gonzalez said.
The play on words was apropos, actually. The legend of rookie Gattis has gone quiet of late as his production and playing time have diminished. Entering Friday, Gattis was hitting only .188 (22-for-117) with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 36 games since June 1.
This is after he won back-to-back National League rookie-of-the-month awards in April and May while hitting .281 with 12 home runs combined. He homered in his debut and in his first pinch-hit at-bat. He hit his first career grand slam in May and had five game-winning RBIs. Three of Gattis’ May home runs accounted for the tying or go-ahead runs in the sixth inning or later, including two in the eighth inning or later.
But after an oblique injury sidelined Gattis for nearly a month starting in late June, his season took a turn.
“Sometimes you forget because he’s a little bit older than most rookies that he’s a rookie, and he’s going to go through some of these things,” Gonzalez said.
When asked if he was being pitched more carefully after his hot start, Gattis acknowledged “maybe a little.”
“Whenever you first come up and nobody knows you, it’s like spring training No. 68 or whatever,” Gattis said. “It’s like guys have to find out. It’s a cat-and-mouse game. It goes back and forth. Ups and downs, arounds, but it’s still baseball.”
Gattis was on an 0-for-17 streak entering Friday and hadn’t played in five games. That didn’t stop fans from buying 1,500 tickets for the occasion, which were in such popular demand the Braves are doing it again Sept. 13. Ticket packages include seats in the “Bear Cave” the upper section of outfield seats in left field, “El Oso Blanco” white T-shirts and a foam bear claw.
Gattis’ dad and stepmother and high school coach flew in from Dallas for the occasion.
“It’ll be fun, cool,” Gattis said.
The Braves are in the midst of a stretch of 13 consecutive games against right-handers, so Gonzalez has been less-inclined to play Gattis in left field. He’s also been trying to get B.J. Upton going and getting a feel for new acquisition Elliot Johnson, who got his first start in left Friday night.
“I get it,” Gattis said. “It’s all good.”
Waiver watch: Teams have until 11:59 p.m. Saturday to make waiver claims or trades to add players to their postseason-eligible list. The Braves have been trying to add a final piece or two, to little avail.
“We’ve been active for the last 10 days,” said Braves general manager Frank Wren, who put in waiver claims on multiple players, and as of Friday had gotten one — Johnson from the Royals.
To fall to the Braves, who have the majors’ best record, a player waived by an American League team must be passed over by 28 other teams. A player from an NL team must be passed over by 13 other NL teams.
“It’s really hard, when you have the record we have, to get anything through to us,” Wren said. “We’ve made a lot of claims and been very active in discussions, but things don’t get down to us.”
Among those the Braves put in a claim for was Mets outfielder Marlon Byrd. He was claimed by the Pirates, who traded for him and Mets catcher John Buck. The Pirates were only a couple of spots ahead of the Braves.
Wren said other players the Braves were interested in made it through waivers, but when he called the waiving team, it wasn’t interested in trading the player. Other players were claimed by teams ahead of the Braves, and then pulled back off waivers. Once a player is pulled back, he can’t be traded for the rest of the season.
“Of all those guys that we liked that we claimed, there’s only been one of them traded, and that was Marlon Byrd,” Wren said. “The others were all pulled back. So likely, even if we had gotten them (on a claim), they wouldn’t have traded them. But they were the kind of players that would have fit with our club.”
Injury watch: Justin Upton sat out Friday with a bruised left hand after getting hit by an Ubaldo Jimenez pitch Thursday night, but he said it was feeling better and hoped he would return to the Braves’ lineup Saturday against the Marlins. … Jason Heyward was cleared by his oral surgeon Thursday to do some light conditioning. He spent 30 minutes on the elliptical machine Friday as he takes the first steps in his comeback from a broken jaw. He’s eyeing a return in the playoffs. … Jordan Walden, who has been bothered by discomfort in both of his groin muscles, said a bullpen session Thursday went “OK,” and he did some light running Friday. He said it still bothers him pitching, “when I have to drive off the mound, especially with my little hop,” but that it’s getting better every day.
Staff writer David O’Brien contributed to this article.