Bethancourt proving his value to Braves
Young catcher puts disappointing season aside with big night
PHILADELPHIA -- Christian Bethancourt has frustrated the Braves enough to lose his starting role less than two weeks into the season and also be relegated to a backup role a week after he was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett with the intention that he'd serve as Atlanta's primary catcher throughout September.
Still when given a chance to be behind the plate with his good friend Julio Teheran on the mound at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, Bethancourt proved that he still has some value that extends beyond his rocket arm. The young catcher guided Teheran through seven strong innings and highlighted a three-hit night with a solo homer that helped the Braves claim an 8-1 win over the Phillies.
"This definitely gives you more confidence," Bethancourt said. "It gets you more on the level you want to be. When I was out there tonight, I felt like I could hit anything. Every player needs nights like this. After you have that kind of night, you just want to be consistent."
Bethancourt highlighted his fifth career three-hit game with a home run to begin the decisive three-run fourth against Phillies starter David Buchanan. But Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was more encouraged by what he saw from his young catcher from the defensive perspective.
"I really liked the way he handled Teheran," Gonzalez said. "I liked the way he caught today. I liked the way he blocked the ball. The offensive stuff is gravy."
Though Bethancourt has long been touted as a strong defender, he seemingly earned this tag primarily because of his arm strength. He has frustrated the Braves' coaching staff with his mechanics behind the plate and the effort he displays while attempting to block or stop balls in the dirt.
Consequently, Bethancourt lost his starting role by the middle of April and was optioned to Gwinnett in June. After spending two more months developing at the Minor League level, he returned to Atlanta's roster on Aug. 24 with the understanding he'd serve as Atlanta's primary catcher.
This proved true for a week. But he has now served as a backup to 38-year-old A.J. Pierzynski in seven of the past 11 games.
Along with hitting his second career homer in this series finale against the Phillies, Bethancourt further proved the value of the chemistry he and Teheran have developed since forming a strong friendship during their earliest days at the Minor League level.
Teheran has produced a 3.85 ERA in the 12 games he has pitched with Bethancourt behind the plate. With Pierzynski serving as his batterymate in 12 games, he has recorded a 6.30 ERA.
"It's not a secret in the clubhouse that we are really close," Bethancourt said. "We've been together since I signed with the Braves. We've always been close. When we're in the clubhouse, we're just hanging out, talking and keeping that communication smooth. It makes things a lot easier. "