ATLANTA -- As Christian Bethancourt has continued to surge offensively for Triple-A Gwinnett and B.J. Upton has extended his struggles, the Braves have at least started toying with the idea of moving Evan Gattis to left field.
Though a decision does not necessarily seem imminent, the Braves have discussed the possibility of promoting Bethancourt to serve as Atlanta's starting catcher. If this decision were to be made, Gattis would move to left field and Justin Upton would transition to right field. To complete this equation, Jason Heyward would replace B.J. Upton in center field.
B.J. Upton provided some glimmer of hope as he produced a .354 on-base percentage in the 15 games played from May 19-June 3. But, he has still hit just .220 with a .301 OBP in his past 25 games. In addition, the Braves have gained more reason to be concerned about his defense. Upton dropped a routine fly ball in Friday's eighth inning and then booted a single that led to a costly run in the eighth inning of Saturday night's 13-inning loss to the Angels. But like with the diving catch he made to rob Josh Hamilton of an extra-base hit in Sunday's seventh inning, he has still occasionally flashed his former defensive brilliance.
The Braves have been more than patient since giving Upton a five-year, $75.25 million contract before the 2013 season. But that patience has worn thin as the defensive miscues have further highlighted the fact that Upton's bid to bounce back from last year's career-worst season has not yet materialized. He has batted .210 with a .634 OPS through his first 64 games.
Meanwhile, as Bethancourt has batted .312 with a .764 OPS in his past 37 games, he has at least given the Braves an alternative. There has never been much reason to be concerned about Bethancourt's defensive skills, which have been deemed Major League ready for the past three years. But now that the 22-year-old catcher is showing some signs of optimism at the plate, the Braves are getting the sense he's ready for a promotion.
"We're hearing [Bethancourt] right now," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We're paying attention."
Bethancourt, who has been compared to a young Benito Santiago, would certainly provide the Braves a defensive upgrade behind the plate. The team would also seemingly benefit from a defensive perspective by replacing B.J. Upton in center field with Heyward, who leads the Majors with 20 Defensive Runs Saved.
Gattis, who entered Sunday leading the Braves in home runs (15) and OPS (.936), is no stranger to left field. He made 48 starts at the position last year and manned the position throughout the postseason, during which Heyward was in center and Justin Upton was in right.
Minor's damage control sets up Braves' comeback
ATLANTA -- Coming off a start in which he was once again frustrated by Coors Field, Mike Minor could have folded as he struggled to navigate his way through the potent Angels lineup on Sunday night. But instead, the southpaw fought his way through five rocky innings and gave the Braves a chance to claim a 7-3 victory.
Despite allowing 11 consecutive hits in a second straight start, Minor limited his damage to three runs over five innings. The Braves southpaw once again fell victim to the long ball as he surrendered solo home runs to Erick Aybar and Mike Trout. But considering that 12 of the 27 batters he faced reached base with a hit or a walk, he also proved quite effective in the damage control department.
"I guess I was lucky enough to hang in there through five with just three runs, two solo shots," Minor said. "The one Trout hit was the worst pitch of the night just because we know he hits breaking balls in the zone -- sliders from lefties and righties, he hammers them."
Along with being upset about the slider Trout hit over the left-field wall in the third inning, Minor was upset at himself for not having more respect for Aybar, the six-hole hitter who sent a 2-0 fastball into the seats during the second inning. But at the end of the day, there were nine other hits that accounted for just one run.
"I looked back at all of the hits and I felt better," Minor said. "I felt like I was throwing better than that. I just felt like they were putting good at-bats together on me. They were hitting bad pitches and I was walking guys. It was just one of those games where I felt better than the outcome."
Minor can't escape the fact that he has not yet proved to be as consistent as he was in the past. After completing at least six innings in 30 of 32 starts last year, he has exited before the sixth in three of this year's first nine starts, including his past two.
Minor's ERA has jumped from 3.07 to 4.42 as he has allowed 22 hits and 11 earned runs in the nine innings that have encompassed his past two starts.
"The numbers are there, I'm not pitching well, but I feel like I am," Minor said. "I feel fine. I feel like I'm going to bounce back every time. Tonight, I felt great. I felt like I had pretty good stuff."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.