ATLANTA -- Beginning Sunday, Major League clubs will have the opportunity to work with an expanded roster for the remainder of the regular season. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he does not expect more than five players to be added to his roster over the next few days.
It is often easy to predict which Minor Leaguers will be given an opportunity to either get a taste of the big league level or strengthen a specific area of need during the season's final month. But there has been some indication that there might be at least one surprise addition to Atlanta's roster.
Evan Gattis was optioned on Friday night to get regular at-bats during Triple-A Gwinnett's final three regular-season games. Outfielder Jose Constanza was recalled from Gwinnett on Saturday to fill Gattis' roster spot. Constanza will likely remain with Atlanta through the end of the regular season.
Gattis and outfielder Todd Cunnigham are expected to rejoin Atlanta's roster on Tuesday. Another player the Braves hope to add at some point in September is Reed Johnson, who has been sidelined since July 29 with left Achilles tendinitis.
A couple of other expanded-roster options are right-handed pitchers Freddy Garcia and David Hale. While Hale is already on the 40-man roster, the Braves would have to create a spot for Garcia, the veteran pitcher who was sent to Gwinnett immediately after the Braves acquired him from the Orioles on Aug. 23.
Both Hale and Garcia could provide depth to the bullpen or make an occasional start and allow the Braves to stick with their plan to give some of their starting pitchers extra rest over the next few weeks.
Top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt stands as one of the top candidates to potentially replace free-agent-to-be Brian McCann as Atlanta's starting catcher as early as next year. Bethancourt is already on the 40-man roster. But Gonzalez has indicated he does not expect to add another catcher.
Varvaro downplays first save, gets game ball anyway
ATLANTA -- Jordan Schafer's initial sense that he had done something wrong came when he and center fielder B.J. Upton were coming toward the infield after Friday night's 2-1 win over the Marlins.
Schafer gained confirmation when instead of providing a celebratory handshake, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez informed Schafer the ball he had just thrown into the right-field stands was a keepsake for Anthony Varvaro, who had just notched his first career save.
"I told him, 'Go get the ball,' and he did," Gonzalez said. "I didn't say it that easy either."
Schafer rushed into the dugout, grabbed one of the bats and ran back out to the right-field wall. He was fortunate to find the man who was happy to receive the bat in exchange for the ball that had been tossed to him just a few minutes earlier.
"I felt really bad," Schafer said. "That's why I hurried up and went back out there. It would be like if somebody took my first home run ball and threw it in the stands. It's something you want to have to cherish."
Schafer, who had caught Greg Dobbs' long fly to end the game, presented Varvaro with the ball when he returned to the clubhouse.
"I don't know if he went in the [indoor] batting cage and picked [a ball] up or what," Varvaro said. "But he came back with one."
Whatever the case, it does not sound like Varvaro plans to showcase the ball with any of his other prized mementos.
"I'll probably throw it in the ball bucket or I might give it to my dog," Varvaro said. "It's no big deal. I got the lineup cards and everything."
Gonzalez entered Friday's game knowing he would not use closer Craig Kimbrel or right-handed setup man Jordan Walden, who has been dealing with a sore groin this week. Nor did he really want to use left-handed setup man Luis Avilan, who had made four appearances in the previous six days.
Thus Varvaro was given the opportunity to work the final two innings and notch his first save in what was the 85th relief appearance of his Major League career.
"I feel like it was just another outing," Varvaro said. "My goal every time I go out there is to put up zeros. It doesn't matter if there is an "S" next to my name in the box score or nothing. As long as there is zeros after it, I'm fine."
• Gonzalez opted to give Justin Upton another chance to rest his bruised left hand on Saturday, leaving him out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive night. But Upton entered as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 10th inning, grounding out to third base in his first at-bat since being hit by Ubaldo Jimenez's 92-mph fastball on Thursday. Upton remained in the game to play left field and is expected to be available to return to the starting lineup on Sunday.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.