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Atlanta Braves Pressure Christian Bethancourt to Improve Offense

February 20th, 2013 at 10:20 PM
By Cody Fields

At 21-years-old, the Atlanta Braves need catching prospect Christian Bethancourt to step up his game with his bat, and they're not handling this situation behind closed doors.

Bethancourt is renowned for having a cannon of an arm, but as a potential replacement for Brian McCann should he leave via free agency in 2014, he only hit .243 with a .291 slugging percentage for Double-A Mississippi last year.

"It's no secret that I have to work on my offense," Bethancourt said on braves.com. "I was working on it in the winter and in Panama, too. I am here to show what I can do."

Fortunately for the Braves and Bethancourt, he's up from 198 to 212 pounds and showed up to Spring Training with an improved swing.

"That swing has gotten better," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "When you listen to the reports and hear the guys talk, they always talk about his swing and say he's not ready yet. But just watching batting practice and the four at-bats I saw in winter ball, I think there is improvement there."

That swing must have been very recently corrected, as Bethancourt hit only .224 with a .522 OPS in 22 games in the Dominican Winter League. That may be explained by the fact that his 2012 season was ended on Aug. 10 when an errant pitch broke his hand.

With contract extensions likely being handed out to Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman in the near future, the Braves may not be able to afford McCann or any other big name free agent catcher for 2014, so they may be forced to rely on Bethancourt.

"I'm here to play baseball, show them what I can do, and then they have to make decisions," Bethancourt said.

Braves fans can only hope he makes the decision a touch one.

Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta Braves, Christian Bethancourt, MLB

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