Braves catchers Kurt Suzuki (from left), Tyler Flowers, Chris Stewart, and Rob Brantley. Stewart or Brantley could be on the opening-day roster as a third catcher behind the regular tandem of Flowers and Suzuki.
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Braves could carry extra bench player to start season

Since they’re already planning to use an eight-man bullpen -- up from what had been their standard seven relievers before last season -- the Braves might opt to have an extra position player, which could be a catcher.

Braves manager Brian Snitker mentioned the possibility of carrying a third catcher as the extra bench player early, as the Braves did at the outset of the 2017 season.

They now have plenty of experienced catching depth behind their regular tandem of Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, including a pair of veterans in the recently signed Chris Stewart, who’s on the 40-man roster, and Rob Brantly.

Snitker said having a third catcher would allow the Braves to use Flowers or Suzuki as a pinch-hitter, a nice option to have considering how well those two hit last season.

“With our catchers, we like their offense, and you could use (the second one) as a bat off the bench,” Snitker said. “That would definitely be a consideration if we decided to go with an extra player instead of a pitcher until we need a fifth starter. I’ve looked at that.”

Stewart, a former Pirates catcher who signed with the Braves on Feb. 14, returned to action Thursday for just his second spring game after missing more than a week with a minor groin injury.

The Braves can have four starting pitchers handle the workload through 10 games without any of them going on short rest. The first time they’d need a fifth starter would be April 10 at Washington in the 11th game of the season.

NOTES: Charlie Culberson’s first home run as a Brave was a lined shot to the grass berm beyond left field at Champion Stadium during a 6-4 loss to the Astros on Thursday. ...

Before going 0-for-2 to snap his seven-game hitting streak Thursday, Braves top prospect Ronald Acuna had led the Grapefruit League in average (.423) and hits (11, tied with teammate Danny Santana). ...

Braves starting pitchers had a 1.17 ERA in 13 games before Scott Kazmir gave up two runs in three innings Thursday. ...

Julio Teheran will face the Yankees’ Sonny Gray in a 6:05 p.m. Friday game at Champion Stadium, the Braves’ first night game of spring.

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