Pastornicky Could Be Braves' Next Rookie Regular
ATLANTA—The Braves have not been shy about putting rookies into starting positions since Frank Wren became the team's general manager after the 2007 season, most notably in each of the past two springs with Jason Heyward in right field and Freddie Freeman at first base.
Barring the unexpected, Atlanta could add a third rookie to that string in shortstop Tyler Pastornicky. The Braves re-signed veteran Jack Wilson to a one-year deal in January yet insist the rookie is the leading candidate to hold the starting job. That's fine with Pastornicky, who can't help but hear the rumors that have been floated throughout the offseason.
"I normally don't pay attention to all the reports and everything else that's out there," Pastornicky said, "but all of my friends do." "They're all the time giving me the lowdown about who's saying what. I try not to let it bother me one way or the other."
Acquired from the Blue Jays midway through the 2010 season along with veteran Alex Gonzalez in exchange for Yunel Escobar, Pastornicky took giant steps in his development last year. He returned to Double-A Mississippi and batted .299/.414/.345 in 90 games prior to hitting .365/.413/.407 in 27 outings at Triple-A Gwinnett. A high ankle sprain in mid-August may have cost him playing time with the big club in September, although he was promoted to Atlanta for the final day of the campaign as insurance.
Pastornicky, 22, says that one day in Atlanta helped acquaint him with the protocol and intensity of a major league clubhouse. He also spoke at length with Wilson, a dialogue that continued into the offseason, long before the veteran re-signed with the Braves. Those experiences, along with being part of the MLB Rookie Development Program in Washington in early January, have Pastornicky believing he is headed in the right direction.
"I'm going to come into camp ready to go," Pastornicky said. "I won't be using that first week and a half or two weeks there to get ready. My goal is to be ready to play the first time I take the field."
• Competition for jobs in the bullpen will include rookie Cory Gearrin and veteran Peter Moylan, who signed a minor league contract after being non-tendered in December. Both righthanders have similar, unusual sidearm deliveries, making it unlikely both would make the final 25-man roster.
• The Braves will play their own version of the Futures Game on April 3 with an exhibition game between the big league team and a squad of the organization's best prospects at Gwinnett's Coolray Field.