Gattis excited about returning to Texas with Astros

HOUSTON (AP) Evan Gattis is returning to his home state to play for the Houston Astros after a trade from Atlanta, and the slugger is thrilled about the move.

”I’m home,” said Gattis, who grew up in Dallas. ”I feel more at home here.”

The 28-year-old, who can play catcher and left field, was acquired on Wednesday with right-hander James Hoyt for three Houston minor leaguers.

He is the third key player the Braves have dealt this offseason after trading outfielders Jason Heyward and Justin Upton in recent months. Gattis says those moves made it clear to him that Atlanta is rebuilding and he’s happy to move to a team looking to win now.

”We are on the rise – trying to push this team and get guys in the direction of winning,” he said.

Even though his name has been linked to trade rumors for months, the deal took Gattis by surprise.

”I really didn’t think I was going to get traded,” he said.

Gattis should add more pop to a lineup that has Chris Carter, who tied for second in the majors with 37 homers in 2014 and George Springer, who hit 20 home runs in just 78 games as a rookie last year. He hit .263 with 22 homers and 52 RBIs for the Braves last season and had 21 homers as a rookie in 2013.

”The way the lineup’s looking it looks like we should be a pretty good power threat and we should score a lot of runs,” Gattis said.

He’ll be under Houston’s control for the next four years, is eligible for arbitration after the 2015 season and will be a free agent after the 2018 season.

Gattis played 48 games in the outfield as a rookie, but didn’t appear in a single game there in 2014 when he started 89 games at catcher. His addition gives the Astros five catchers on the roster, bringing up the question of if he’ll see more time in the outfield in Houston. He’s more comfortable catching, but said he’s been working on his skills in the outfield this offseason and is open to playing either place.

”The bottom line is we go out and play to win the game today,” he said. ”Whatever is going to give the team the best chance to win I’ll do it.”

Gattis spent time on the disabled list with a back injury last season but said Thursday that he’s healthy now and ”ready to roll.” He was asked what he feels like his strengths and weaknesses are and admitted that he needs to improve on defense.

”Defense in general is average or less than average,” he said. ”I think I can make up for that in the lineup and I’m eager to get better.”

Also on Thursday the Astros agreed to a one-year, $975,000, one-year contract with Carlos Corporan, avoiding arbitration with the catcher after agreeing to a $4,175,000 deal with designated hitter Chris Carter on Wednesday. Corporan made $505,300 last year. The remaining Houston players in arbitration are catchers Jason Castro and Hank Conger, outfielder Dexter Fowler, shortstop Marwin Gonzalez and left-handed reliever Tony Sipp.

AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.