Recker pleasantly surprised to make roster

Braves decide to use extra bench spot on 3rd catcher instead of going with 8-man 'pen

Recker pleasantly surprised to make roster

NEW YORK -- As Anthony Recker donned his Braves uniform and prepped for Monday's Opening Day game against the Mets at Citi Field, he had to chuckle at the reality that just 72 hours earlier, he was concluding Spring Training in Florida with the assumption he was going to begin the season with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Recker was certainly happy to alter his plans on Friday night, when he received a call from Braves general manager John Coppolella, who asked the catcher to begin driving to Atlanta as soon as possible because it looked like he was going to fill the bench spot created when the team ditched its previous plan to carry an extra reliever.

"It wasn't a for-sure thing," Recker said. "They just told me to be ready. They said, 'We know you've got your family in Florida, so start packing up and get to Atlanta and we'll see what happens.' So we did that. We got there late Saturday and then it was just a matter of whatever they were still pondering. Then I just showed up at the field Sunday and nobody ever told me I didn't make the team."

Recker was optioned to Gwinnett's roster two weeks ago and he hadn't been invited to participate in Friday night's exhibition game against the Yankees at SunTrust Park. So, needless to say, he wasn't expecting to receive that call from Coppolella.

Once the Braves determined a five-man bench would be more valuable than an eight-man bullpen, especially while experiencing three off-days within the season's first 11 days, they discussed some external options and ultimately decided to fill the bench spot with a third catcher -- Recker, who certainly benefited from the fact he was already on the 40-man roster.

With Recker on the active roster, the Braves now have a more comfortable option to use him or either of their other two catchers -- Tyler Flowers or Kurt Suzuki -- as a pinch-hitter. Had they carried just the two primary catchers -- Flowers and Suzuki -- Braves manager Brian Snitker would have been hesitant to use one as a pinch-hitter and run the risk of running out of catchers during a game.

Snitker said he will wait until next week to determine how long he might carry three catchers and stick with a seven-man bullpen.

"We'll play that by ear and let the games dictate what route we take," Snitker said. "Hopefully, we'll have starters stretching games and don't need to [carry an eighth reliever]."

Odds and ends
Freddie Freeman made his seventh consecutive Opening Day start for the Braves on Monday. Chris Chambliss is the only other first baseman who has made as many as five Opening Day starts for Atlanta.

• Snitker said right-handed reliever Mauricio Cabrera (right elbow strain) could be cleared to begin throwing again soon. Cabrera was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, but it will be at least a couple of more weeks before he could be considered an option for Atlanta's bullpen.

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