LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Atlanta Braves will make their first cuts in a few days. One of the non-roster invitees assured of not being sent packing to minor league camp is Evan Gattis.
In fact, the catcher-outfielder may still be with the Braves for the regular-season opener against Philadelphia at Turner Field on April 1.
Gattis, used to beating the odds, is hitting .423 (11-for-26) with three doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. That is hard to ignore.
The 26-year-old could be the backup catcher to Gerald Laird until Brian McCann is ready to play in mid-April. And even after that, he would be an interesting possibility as a potent right-handed bat off the bench.
"He can really swing the bat," Braves general manager Frank Wren said.
Gattis, who started last season still in Class A, showed that with 16 homers in the Venezuelan Winter League and hasn't cooled off in spring training.
Against Houston on Friday with a Braves split-squad team, Gattis was 3-for-4 with four RBIs, smacking a three-run homer and a double.
Gattis, who was having drug issues, gave up baseball after high school and traveled the country for several years getting his life together. But the Braves took a chance on him and he turned heads as early as last year in spring training.
Gattis finished last season at Class AA Mississippi and hit a combined .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs in just 74 games with three teams.
Gearrin states bullpen case
While other Braves relief candidates have struggled, side-arming right-hander Cory Gearrin has impressed in his bid to head to Atlanta as a member of the bullpen.
Gearrin, who has bounced between Class AAA Gwinnett and Atlanta the past three sesons, has pitched five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits while striking out six and walking two.
Meanwhile, David Carpenter and Anthony Varvaro have been roughed up. Carpenter, claimed off waivers over the winter, gave up four runs on four hits over 1 innings against the Astros on Friday and has a 15.19 ERA in five games. Varvaro's ERA is 7.50 in six appearances.
Cristhian Martinez is likely assured of a bullpen spot, but he has struggled as well. His spring ERA is 7.36.
Braves relievers have received plenty of work because of the absence of Eric O'Flaherty and Jordan Walden. O'Flaherty was set back by a groin strain and Walden is sidelined because of a bulging disc in his back.
Simmons flourishing in WBC
Andrelton Simmons is certainly making the most of his time away from the Braves while playing for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.
The native of Curacao had three hits as the Dutch defeated Korea en route to a berth in the second round and was 2-for-4 with a walk in a 6-2 upset of Cuba on Friday in Tokyo while also making a dazzling catch.
Simmons scored two runs from his leadoff spot and also drove in a run. Next up for the Netherlands is host Japan today.
The shortstop played in just Grapefruit League games for the Braves before heading off to the WBC. If the Dutch advance, he will be away until the last week of spring training in Florida.
Ripken an Uptons fan
Cal Ripken Jr. knows about playing with your sibling. He did it in the Baltimore infield with younger brother Billy.
Now the Hall of Famer, who holds the major league record for consecutive games, is interested in watching B.J. and Justin Upton play together in the Braves outfield.
"I think there could be some inter-team competition with them, which I think will be really healthy," said Ripken, who threw out the first pitch Friday before the Braves' game with Toronto at Champion Stadium. "The (season) gets so long with 162 games, a lot of times you have to find different forms of motivation because there are so many ups and downs.
"It's not going to be about who can one-up each other. But because they know each other so well, I think that will help some of those days when it is difficult to show up. I love the dynamic and I'm very curious and very interested to watch the Braves more because of the brothers."