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Suzuki to avoid DL after HBP on right hand

MRI reveals no fracture for veteran catcher
MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- Before standing as the only catcher the Braves could comfortably use during Saturday night's game against the Phillies, Chris Stewart playfully said he was going to take the field wearing bubble wrap.

Given it's better to laugh than cry in some situations, the Braves were wise to remain jovial about what has happened to their catchers during the first two days of this season. It was certainly a little easier to laugh after an MRI exam performed Saturday showed Kurt Suzuki's right hand was not fractured when he was hit by a Nick Pivetta pitch during Friday's game against the Phillies.

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ATLANTA -- Before standing as the only catcher the Braves could comfortably use during Saturday night's game against the Phillies, Chris Stewart playfully said he was going to take the field wearing bubble wrap.

Given it's better to laugh than cry in some situations, the Braves were wise to remain jovial about what has happened to their catchers during the first two days of this season. It was certainly a little easier to laugh after an MRI exam performed Saturday showed Kurt Suzuki's right hand was not fractured when he was hit by a Nick Pivetta pitch during Friday's game against the Phillies.

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Suzuki will likely miss a couple games, but it looks like he will avoid joining starting catcher Tyler Flowers on the disabled list. Flowers will likely be sidelined for at least a month with a strained left oblique muscle.

"I was pretty disheartened last night," Suzuki said. "The way I was feeling physically and catching-wise during Spring Training, everything was just clicking. I was looking forward to getting off to a good start this year. Fortunately, now nothing is bad. So hopefully I can get back after it in a couple days and get right back on the horse."

Suzuki will not know how cooperative his severely bruised right hand will be until he starts swinging a bat and throwing. But given the improvement he has already realized, he is hopeful to rejoin the Braves' lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Nationals.

The Pivetta pitch struck Suzuki on the side of his hand, just below his pinky. Doctors told the Braves catcher he fortunately moved his knuckles back toward the umpire while attempting to avoid getting hit. Had he moved them forward and put the back of his hand in position to be hit, he might have been looking at a lengthy DL stint.

"I can make a fist," Suzuki said. "It's just the impact to worry about hitting-wise."

Stewart started Saturday's game at catcher and will likely be back behind the plate for Monday's series opener against the Nationals. Instead of adding Rob Brantly to the 40-man roster to serve as a backup catcher for a couple of days, the Braves are going to stick with Stewart for a couple games.

Utilityman Charlie Culberson served as Stewart's backup on Saturday night. After the game, Atlanta announced it had acquired catcher Carlos Perez from the Angels in exchange for infielder Ryan Schimpf.

Stewart was contemplating retirement and looking at the possibility of taking a coaching job before the Braves signed him just after Spring Training began. The 36-year-old veteran just wanted an opportunity, but he certainly didn't envision he'd be pressed into duty in this manner.

"I knew I had more baseball in me," Stewart said. "So, just given an opportunity to go out there and show what I can do. The Braves called a couple days before the start of Spring Training and said, 'What are your thoughts?' I said, 'Let's do it,' and look at where we're at right now."

Instead of promoting a catcher, the Braves purchased right-handed reliever Josh Ravin's contract from Triple-A Gwinnett and optioned left-handed reliever Rex Brothers to Gwinnett. Akeel Morris was designated for assignment to create a 40-man roster spot for Ravin, who was chosen to provide a multi-inning option to a taxed Atlanta bullpen.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Kurt Suzuki