Pastornicky in as starting shortstop for Braves
Club makes 14 cuts Monday, all but finalizing Opening Day roster
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Braves cut down their spring roster by 14 players Monday, bringing an unsurprising end to all the club's spring roster battles.
As expected, rookie Tyler Pastornicky will be Atlanta's starting shortstop, Randall Delgado will begin the season as the fifth starter, Jose Constanza will be the final player off the bench, and lefty Yohan Flande won the last bullpen spot.
The 14 cuts announced included two players who were optioned, seven who were reassigned to Minor League camp, four who were placed on the disabled list and one, reliever Peter Moylan, who will remain in Florida to continue rehabbing his injured shoulder.
Right-handed pitchers Cory Gearrin and Julio Teheran were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. Third baseman Chipper Jones (torn meniscus in left knee) was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26, as were left-hander Robert Fish (left elbow tendinitis), right-hander Anthony Varvaro (right pectoral strain) and right-hander Arodys Vizcaino (Tommy John surgery last month).
Andrelton Simmons, Pastornicky's primary competition for the starting shortstop job, was reassigned to Minor League camp along with catchers J.C. Boscan and Jose Yepez, infielders Drew Sutton and Josh Wilson and outfielders Luis Durango and Jordan Parraz.
Pastornicky struggled out of the gate this spring, allowing Simmons to become a seemingly viable alternative as the Opening Day shortstop, despite having never played above Class A Advanced Lynchburg. But Pastornicky showed improvement over the final few weeks of Spring Training, and Simmons was slowed recently by discomfort in his left side, so the job once again belongs to Pastornicky.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he feels comfortable starting the season with Pastornicky at shortstop, but it stands to reason that the 22-year-old will still have to hold off Simmons as the season progresses.
"I think the guys on the team helped me a lot. I think the coaching staff has been really supportive," Pastornicky said. "It's been awesome, as far as getting that. That's helped me out a lot. Just continuing to work hard and believing in myself, that's helped a lot.
"I'm kind of proud of myself for turning it around after getting off to a rough start, and being able to kind of find myself there. It was awesome. I'm going to continue to try to build on that and then take it into the season, get it rolling off to a good start."
As for the decision to carry Constanza, Gonzalez said he liked the outfielder in both corner spots, and Jason Heyward could move to center field if Constanza was in the starting lineup. Constanza also offers some speed and ability as a pinch-hitter, and he is already on the Braves' 40-man roster. His chief competition, Parraz and Durango, were non-roster invitees.
In the bullpen, Flande will provide the Braves with a left-handed specialist. He will join Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty, Kris Medlen, Cristhian Martinez and Livan Hernandez.
The fifth spot in the rotation, meanwhile, belongs to Delgado on something of an interim basis. Right-hander Tim Hudson (offseason back surgery) is scheduled to return either the last week of April or the first few days of May, and the last time the Braves will need a fifth starter before then is April 22. Under that schedule, Delgado will likely only make three starts -- and potentially work in relief between them -- before Hudson's return reshuffles the rotation.
Gonzalez does expect Delgado to be the fifth starter for each turn through the rotation, however, meaning it's unlikely he will be optioned to Triple-A to have Teheran make a start in his place.
"You've still got to perform," Gonzalez said. "But looking ahead, he is the fifth starter until we need Huddy."