Evan Gattis cleared to begin rehab assignment

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Braves catcher Evan Gattis, who almost surely would have made the All-Star team if not for being on the disabled list with a bulging disk in his back, has been cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the plan is for Gattis to play designated hitter Thursday and spend at least 3-4 games at Triple-A overall before potentially coming off the disabled list next week.

Gattis has been out since June 27. He was having a huge year before the injury, hitting .290 with 16 homers and a .900 OPS in 63 games. Among all players with at least 50 games at catcher this season only Devin Mesoraco of the Reds has a higher slugging percentage or OPS than Gattis, who’s homered 37 times through his first 168 career games after debuting as a 26-year-old last season.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.