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BRAVES NOTES: Gattis in, Venters out as roster takes shape

Evan Gattis, who had pronounced that he was through with baseball seven years ago, knows that he'll be in Braves uniform on opening night. The 26-year-old catcher got the good news Wednesday.

Jonny Venters won't be available to pitch in relief on Monday night against Philadelphia in the opener and it isn't known yet just how long his elbow will keep him out of action.

If Venters' elbow turns out to be the bad news of spring training for the Braves, Gattis is the good news. There aren't many better feel-good stories.

Gattis, who was away from baseball for almost four years as he battled drug issues and depression, slugged his way onto the Braves' opening roster and will share catching duties with Gerald Laird at least until Brian McCann is ready to return from shoulder surgery near the end of April.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told Gattis that he had made the team before the team left Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for Viera to play Washington in their next-to-last Grapefruit League game.

Gattis then celebrated by hitting a sixth-inning home run -- his sixth of the spring. He is batting .357 with 16 RBIs.

The right-handed batter has played just 49 games above Class A. But he smashed 18 homers in 74 games last season while batting .305 and then hit 16 more homers over 53 games while batting .303 in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Venters, meanwhile, had to leave Tuesday's game at Lakeland against Detroit and the initial word from the Braves was that he had a sprained elbow. He was being evaluated further on Wednesday, but a trip to the disabled list was assured.

The left-hander posted a 1.59 ERA over 164 appearances in his first two seasons, but struggled early last season and spent time on the disabled list. He finished with a 5-4 record and 3.33 ERA in 66 games.

Nationals hit six homers in rout

Space Coast Stadium was a true launching pad, with Ryan Zimmerman hitting three of Washington's six home runs in the Nationals split-squad's 11-2 victory over the Braves.

The only highlights for the Braves were the back-to-back homers by Gattis and Laird in the sixth innings and Ramiro Pena's 3-for-3 game at the plate.

Most of the Nationals' scoring was done at the expense of pitchers who will be with Gwinnett his season. Daniel Rodriguez gave up eight runs and four of the homers while making it through just two innings.

Maholm to start final Florida game

Paul Maholm, the Braves' starter for the second game of the season against Philadelphia next Wednesday, will pitch today as the Braves (19-15) conclude Grapefruit League play with a game against Houston at Champion Stadium.

Maholm is 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA this spring and hasn't allowed an earned run over 20 innings in his past four starts.

The Braves will leave for Atlanta after the game and then play an exhibition game on Saturday at Class AA Mississippi against to minor league prospects.