MIAMI -- Two weeks ago, Evan Gattis was not sure if he was going to begin the season at the Major League level. Now he finds himself targeted to spend at least the next two weeks as the Braves' cleanup hitter and starting catcher.
With first baseman Freddie Freeman sidelined until at least April 22 with a strained right oblique muscle, the Braves have determined Gattis is the player best-suited to fill the cleanup spot. So, instead of sharing the catching duties with Gerald Laird, Gattis will now serve as the team's primary catcher. He made his third consecutive start in Tuesday night's game against the Marlins, and hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat.
"Maybe we go two-to-one or three-to-one with Gattis, because he can fill that four-hole spot for you," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Now if all of the sudden we start clicking on all cylinders, maybe we can go back to one-and-one or two-and-two or every-other-one."
The veteran Laird will definitely be behind the plate during all of rookie pitcher Julio Teheran's starts.
The Braves will have a decision to make when Brian McCann returns from right shoulder surgery. The six-time All-Star catcher is not expected to be activated from the disabled list before the last week of April.
When McCann returns, Laird will likely continue to serve as the backup catcher. This decision will be influenced by the Braves' desire for Gattis to get as many at-bats as possible. So, the question is whether it would be better to keep him as a backup outfielder/third catcher or send him to Triple-A Gwinnett to play catcher on an everyday basis.
Heyward will relax, trust himself at plate
MIAMI -- When Jason Heyward went to the batting cage after Monday night's win over the Marlins, he was not attempting to vent or release frustration. The Braves right fielder was simply attempting to get a better feel for the comfort he had started to gain during the game.
"It was not an angry cage or a venting round of work," Heyward said. "It was just more of, if we're that close, let's go see and feel if we can get it right. I came out feeling better than I have in a long time."
That is certainly encouraging news to the Braves, who have seen Heyward record just two hits, a home run and a single, in his first 24 at-bats this season.
Heyward was given a chance to rest and clear his head while Reed Johnson replaced him as the starting right fielder in Tuesday night's game against the Marlins. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said the decision had more to do with the need to get Johnson some at-bats than to sit Heyward.
"I think [Heyward] is right there," Gonzalez said. "I know he spent some time with [hitting coaches Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher] last night after the game was over, and I think they got it worked out."
Mechanically, Heyward has been attempting to adjust his hands to create some more whip with his powerful left-handed swing. But the 23-year-old outfielder believes his struggles have been a product of trying to do too much.
"I've just been really tense and trying to too much, trying to be too perfect," Heyward said. "That's not how you hit. You go up there relaxed. You have to go up there free and easy and trust yourself."
• With Reed Johnson getting a start on Tuesday night, Jordan Schafer is the only position player who has not made a start for the Braves so far this year. Schafer, who was Atlanta's starting center fielder in 2009 and during parts of the 2011 season, entered Tuesday with just one at-bat.
• Going into Tuesday's game, Justin Upton accounted for half of the Braves' first 12 home runs. Entering Tuesday, the Braves were hitting .244, but without Upton's stats, they were hitting just .221 (44-for-199).
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.