Braves claim 1B/OF Walker off waivers

Braves claim 1B/OF Walker off waivers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Christian Walker doesn't necessarily satisfy the Braves' desire to improve their bench before the regular season begins. But his presence will at least provide some organizational depth and insurance to protect against the possibility Freddie Freeman could be sidelined at some point this season.

Designated for assignment by the Orioles last week, Walker was claimed off waivers by the Braves on Saturday. The 25-year-old first baseman and outfielder batted .264 with 18 homers and a .757 OPS for Triple-A Norfolk last year.

Walker will report to big league camp with the Braves and have a chance to compete for one of Atlanta's vacant bench spots. But he'll likely begin the season with Triple-A Gwinnett.

As the Braves attempt to compensate for how Sean Rodriguez's absence has affected their bench depth, they still seem to be planning to open the season with an eight-man bullpen and consequently a short bench.

It currently appears the Braves could open the season with backup catcher Kurt Suzuki, Jace Peterson and Chase d'Arnaud occupying three of the four bench spots that would be available if they utilize an eight-man bullpen.

Peterson and d'Arnaud are versatile enough to possibly eliminate the option to carry either Emilio Bonifacio or Micah Johnson as a backup outfielder. If the Braves choose to go this route, they may attempt to add a veteran to primarily serve as a pinch-hitter.

But having compiled a .554 OPS over just 31 big league plate appearances, Walker doesn't necessarily fit what the Braves would be seeking.

Walker's stock has fallen since he hit 26 homers and compiled an .846 OPS while playing at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2014. He has struck out at least 136 times over the past two seasons, both with Triple-A Norfolk. But he has also totaled 42 homers and compiled a .754 OPS over 1,332 plate appearances with Norfolk.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.