Struggling Contreras optioned; Lucroy up

July 7th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- enjoyed some initial success after prematurely being made Atlanta’s starting catcher. But the past few weeks have proven he needs more time to develop at the Minor League level.

Before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Pirates, the Braves optioned Contreras to Triple-A Gwinnett and purchased the contract of two-time All-Star from Triple-A Gwinnett. Left-hander was transferred to the 60-day injured list to create a 40-man roster spot for Lucroy.

While Lucroy immediately found himself in the starting lineup on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Contreras was heading to Gwinnett to gain the development he was targeted to receive before starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud tore ligaments in his thumb on May 1.

Contreras, 23, entered this year having played just 64 games above the High-A level. But when d’Arnaud suffered the injury that will sideline him into August, Contreras became Atlanta’s primary catcher.

Though Contreras struggled with his blocking skills behind the plate, he made a good initial impression when he hit .237 with five homers and an .885 OPS through his first 19 games (70 plate appearances). But he hit just .181 with two homers and a .504 OPS over the 25 games (88 plate appearances) that followed.

"He's a very talented young man and he was thrust into a tough situation here," manager Brian Snitker said. "I thought he handled himself real well. He's had limited at-bats at Double-A. It's hard to hit here. I think backing off him a little bit will be good for him."

Top catching prospect Shea Langeliers is progressing through his first full professional season and likely won’t be considered MLB ready before some point next year. The Braves were also hoping might prove to be serviceable. But Jackson extended his offensive struggles before spending the past two months on the injured list with a hamstring injury and then a right pinky finger ailment.

Jackson was eligible to return from the 60-day injured list on July 1. But he didn’t resume playing for Gwinnett until June 30. So, the Braves will give him more time while evaluating the 35-year-old Lucroy, who has hit .220 with a .681 OPS in 114 plate appearances for Gwinnett. He went 5-for-14 with the Nationals before being released this year.

Lucroy and will now serve as Atlanta’s catchers. Smith was acquired after being designated for assignment by the Rays in May.