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Hard-working Terdoslavich driven to succeed

After getting taste of bigs in '13, outfielder playing winter ball to hone skills

ATLANTA -- When Joey Terdoslavich wanted to enhance his versatility by learning how to play the outfield last winter, he sought his former high school baseball coach's assistance and asked him to treat him like a freshman who was attempting to make the varsity team.

Terdoslavich's dedication paid dividends when the Braves promoted him to Atlanta on July 4 with the confidence that he was capable of serving as an adequate defender in the outfield and a valuable switch-hitting option off the bench. He proved productive enough to remain at the Major League level for the remainder of the season.

Instead of being satisfied with a taste of the big leagues as a backup, Terdoslavich now hungers to make the improvements that could push him closer to eventually landing an everyday role as a first baseman or corner outfielder. It might not be possible for him to currently realize this goal in Atlanta, given the presences of Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton.

But as he spends the next four weeks playing for Los Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League, Terdoslavich will be attempting to further his development and better prepare himself for that day when he might get to prove himself as a regular at the Major League level.

"The goal has never been to simply get to the big leagues," Terdoslavich said in September. "I want to do whatever I can to help my team win every day."

Terdoslavich arrived in the Dominican earlier this week and introduced himself in impressive fashion. While debuting with the Toros on Thursday night, he went 3-for-4 with a double, a triple and two RBIs.

There has never been much concern about the offensive potential possessed by Terdoslavich, who batted .318 with 18 home runs and a .926 OPS in the 85 games he played for Triple-A Gwinnett before getting his first call to the Majors in July.

While collecting 79 at-bats in 55 games with Atlanta, Terdoslavich batted just .215 with a .581 OPS. Most of his struggles came as he attempted to learn the art of pinch-hitting. In the 14 games that he started, he batted .286 (12-for-42), with a .745 OPS.

During his time in the Dominican, Terdoslavich will likely play both corner-outfield positions and spend some time at first base. His days as a third baseman essentially ended when he committed 22 errors in the first 50 games he played for Gwinnett during the 2012 season.

Highly-regarded catching prospect Christian Bethancourt is also participating in the DWL. Through the first 12 games he has played for Los Tigres del Licey, Bethancourt was batting .154 (6-for-39) with 10 strikeouts.

While Evan Gattis stands as the favorite to begin next season as Atlanta's starting catcher, Bethancourt improved his candidacy while hitting .271 with 12 home runs and a .741 OPS in the 90 games he played for Double-A Mississippi this year.

From a defensive standpoint, the strong-armed and athletic Bethancourt appears to be Major League ready. But the questions surrounding his future have always focused on the discipline he has shown at the plate. He has drawn 80 walks and compiled a .299 on-base percentage in the 1,828 plate appearances he has collected during his Minor League career.

Bethancourt continued this trend in 2013, as he hit .251 and produced a .286 on-base percentage in the first 51 games he played. But the 22-year-old catcher showed some improvement, as he batted .307 and compiled a .329 on-base percentage over his final 39 contests.

Ernesto Mejia, Edward Salcedo and Luis Vasquez are among the other notable Braves competing in winter leagues.

Last year, Mejia was named the Venezuelan Winter League's Most Valuable Player for the second time in three years. The strong 27-year-old first baseman has gotten off to a slow start this year, hitting .242 with seven home runs and a .816 OPS through his first 32 games with Zulia.

Salcedo has not lived up to the potential envisioned when he secured a $1.6 million signing bonus before the start of the 2010 season. The 22-year-old prospect has struggled at the plate, hitting .240 with a .689 OPS through the first 471 games of his professional career. He has also seen his defensive woes follow him from shortstop to third base, where he committed 29 errors in 331 chances with Mississippi this year. He has batted .174 (4-for-23) in the seven games he has played for Escogido in the DWL.

Vasquez, who was signed as a Minor League free agent on Nov. 5 and placed on the 40-man roster earlier this week, has allowed two earned runs and surrendered three hits while notching 10 strikeouts in the 9 1/3 innings he has completed for Licey.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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