ATLANTA -- New Pirates reliever Ryan Reid knows all about Braves slugger Evan Gattis, who has rocketed to legendary status in his first two months in Atlanta with his titanic swings and entirely appropriate nickname: "El Oso Blanco," -- "The White Bear."
The two played together this past offseason for Aguilas del Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League, where Gattis tied for the league lead with 16 home runs and earned his now-famous moniker. In fact, Reid was the one who helped the nickname take off after riding home with Gattis one day.
"I know probably 50-60 percent Spanish at some point, playing in Venezuela for two years," Reid said. "I was talking with a taxi driver, we were heading back from the field, and somehow, 'Oso blanco' came up -- white bear, polar bear, oso polar -- and sure enough, it stuck. Me and some of the other Americans got it going with the Latinos, and it took off."
Gattis, who led the league with a .595 slugging percentage in 53 games in Venezuela, was able to corroborate Reid's role in popularizing the name.
"I think he would be the one to credit," Gattis said. "We were in a cab together and he knows a little more Spanish than I do. So he knew what they were talking about on the [CB] radio more than I did. The cab driver said, 'Do you know El Oso Blanco?' and he was like, 'It must be this guy.' Then after that, he worked to spread it."
This week, the Pirates are getting their second look at Gattis, who certainly left his impression in the Braves' mid-April trip to Pittsburgh. Pinch-hitting in the eighth inning of a tie game on April 18, Gattis took reliever Jared Hughes deep to left for a two-run home run that held up as the game-winner. It went down as just another chapter in the rookie's torrid big league debut, which has earned him National League Rookie of the Month honors for both April and May.
"He should have had 20 homers in Venezuela," Reid said. "He hit probably 10 other balls that would've left any other stadium but the stadium we played in. The wind blows in, and it's the biggest field there. Everybody says it's not a hitter's park, and him and [Braves prospect Ernesto Mejia] were going back and forth just launching balls that would've gone out anywhere else."
Called up to the Majors for the first time on Monday to shore up a Pittsburgh bullpen that has been plenty busy in the past week, Reid already knows well what pitchers around the league have quickly learned about Gattis: He punishes mistakes in dramatic fashion.
"He's a man-child," Reid said. "Great guy. He's talented and you gotta execute against him. I've been watching plenty of games on TV."
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less