Braves catcher Tyler Flowers has been placed on the 10-day DL with a strained left oblique muscle, the team announced. No timeline for his return was given, but oblique issues tend to sideline a player for a month or more. In a pair of corresponding moves, Atlanta has selected the contract of right-hander Miguel Socolovich and transferred left-hander Jacob Lindgren to the 60-day DL. Lindgren recently underwent Tommy John surgery.
The 32-year-old backstop suffered the injury in his first at-bat of the season in yesterday’s opener. As Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted yesterday after Flowers exited the game, he’d been slowed by a groin issue in Spring Training that created enough concern for the Braves to carry three catchers to begin the season. Veteran Chris Stewart made the Braves’ roster after signing a non-guaranteed big league deal this offseason, and he’ll now likely serve as the backup to Kurt Suzuki for the foreseeable future, as Suzuki steps into the role of manager Brian Snitker’s primary catcher.
It’s a tough blow for the Braves, who enjoyed a career year from Flowers in 2017. Long regarded as a quality defensive catcher, Flowers took his offensive game to new heights last season when he slashed .281/.378/.445 with a dozen homers in 370 trips to the plate. That marked a continuation of the improvements he showed in his first season of a two-year deal (plus a 2018 option) with the Braves, as Flowers has followed up seven underwhelming offensive campaigns with the White Sox to hit .276/.368/.433 for the Braves — the team that originally selected him in both the 2004 and 2005 drafts.
With Flowers on the shelf, Atlanta will look to Suzuki to build upon on his own career year from 2017. The 34-year-old Suzuki hit .283/.351/.536 with a career-best 19 homers last year in 309 PAs for the Braves. Rather than test the open market, Suzuki instead agreed to a one-year, $3.5MM extension with Atlanta late last September.
Socolovich, 31, has spent the past three seasons in the Cardinals organization, totaling 66 1/3 innings of relief work and posting a 3.80 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 44.1 percent ground-ball rate. Socolovich has averaged just 90.6 mph on his heater in that time but has gotten by thanks to a knack for limiting hard contact (27.8 percent hard-hit rate, 16.4 percent line-drive rate) and inducing pop-ups (14.4 percent infield-fly rate).