Just one question remains regarding position players on Atlanta’s Opening Day roster
When Spring Training began, there was little reason to believe Tyler Pastornicky had any shot to make Atlanta’s Opening Day roster. But when the Braves optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday morning, there was reason to believe he could return to Atlanta this point as a versatile bench option.
The Braves optioned Pastornicky, outfielder Jose Constanza and right-handed pitcher David Carpenter to Gwinnett on Tuesday. With Constanza now out of the picture, Jordan Schafer is essentially guaranteed the chance to begin this season as Atlanta’s fifth outfielder.
When camp began, it was assumed three of the five available bench spots would be given to Pena, outfielder Reed Johnson, and one of the members of the third base platoon (Chris Johnson and Juan Franisco). Nothing has changed on that front.
Because he was out of options, Schafer came to camp as the slight favorite in his battle with Constanza to begin the season as Atlanta’s fifth outfielder. When Constanza missed the first month of Spring Training because of visa issues, it became even more clear that the Braves would go with Schafer, whose most valuable assets are his glove and speed.
Now the only question is whether there truly is still a competition between Evan Gattis and Matt Pagnozzi to determine who will serve as the backup catcher until Brian McCann returns from shoulder surgery in late April.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez continues to say there is a competition despite the fact that Gattis appears to be the clear choice.
Gattis was unable to handle a couple of the sinkers Mike Minor was toying with during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Mets. But his defense has not provided much reason for concern over the past month and there is no reason to debate his offensive ability against Pagnozzi’s.
Gonzalez spent some time with Pastornicky after telling him of the decision on Tuesday morning. <p>
“(Pastornicky) is not going down and being forgotten,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got a plan for him. I told Tyler to trust that this organization is going to do the right thing for him. This guy is a valuable piece for us. He’s had an unbelievable Spring Training for us. This guy is a big piece for us. What we start with in April may be different in May or June.”
Pastornicky hit .375 (21-for-56) with four doubles and a home run in 26 Grapefruit League games. There are few doubts about his ability to hit. His defensive inconsistencies will likely prevent him from ever again regaining the starting shortstop role that he handled for the Braves through the first two months of last season.
The Braves believe Pastornicky’s athleticism will aid him in his attempt to establish himself as a versatile utility player. But if Dan Uggla struggles through the first two months of this season, the Braves would at least have to think about benching him and giving the starting second base job to either Ramiro Pena or Pastornicky.
With Paul Janish set to miss the first couple weeks of the season while recovering from left shoulder surgery, Pastornicky will spend the early days of this upcoming season as Triple-A Gwinnett’s shortstop. Once Janish returns, Pastornicky will see some time at second base, shortstop and in the outfield.
2B, OF, SS