Rookie gets start in center

ATLANTA --- Jordan Schafer's rise to the major leagues became official on Friday when the Atlanta Braves set their 25-man roster and named the 22-year-old rookie their starting center fielder.

 

Newly acquired left fielder Garret Anderson and right fielder Jeff Francoeur join Schafer in the starting outfield.

Schafer beat out Josh Ander-son, who was traded to the Detroit Tigers on Monday, and Gregor Blanco, who was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday.

Schafer won the job even though he has never played above Double-A Mississippi and was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2008 season for a violation of baseball's drug policy.

"He earned the job," said general manager Frank Wren. "He played, probably the best word is he played inspired baseball this spring."

Schafer hit .269 with 10 home runs, 51 RBI and 12 steals in 84 games for Mississippi last season.

He hit .303 in the second half of the season after having his confidence rocked by the suspension.

"It really tested me mentally," Schafer said of the 50-game suspension. "It tested my faith in myself. ... I didn't know going into camp if I had a shot or not, but I'm here.

"A little less than a year later, it all has come full circle. That's all behind me. I'm really happy to be where I am."

Schafer was told he won the starting job in a meeting with manager Bobby Cox following batting practice.

Schafer emerged from the meeting beaming.

"He said I had a good spring and the job was mine," Schafer said.

"This has been my dream since I was a little kid, just to be on this stage and have this opportunity."

Schafer entered Friday night's 3-1 exhibition victory over Detroit with a .344 batting average and a .373 on-base percentage. He hit eighth in the lineup but could be used as the team's leadoff hitter.

Schafer went 0-for-2 with a walk in the win over the Tigers.

He wore No. 64 through the spring. He was assigned No. 24 on Friday.

"That was the last of my concerns," he said.

BRAVES 3, TIGERS 1

Javier Vazquez pitched four perfect innings to continue a strong spring showing by Atlanta's starters and Omar Infante hit a two-run homer to lead the Braves.

Vazquez needed only 40 pitches, including 30 strikes, to retire each of the 12 batters he faced.

Atlanta starters have a 2.38 ERA and 13-5 record with only today's exhibition against the Tigers remaining before Sunday's opener at Philadelphia.

Vazquez, acquired in an off-season trade with the Chicago White Sox, and five relievers combined for a five-hitter.

"I've always loved pitching here," said Vazquez, who was 5-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 11 career starts at Turner Field with Montreal and Arizona.

"I love the stadium," he said.

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