KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Tyler Pastornicky expects to play a lot more for Atlanta this season than he did in his major league debut last year when he sat on the bench watching the Braves’ collapse.
He is expected to be Atlanta’s starting shortstop.
He was so eager to make a good first impression this spring, he showed up late. Pastornicky had looked at Friday’s reporting date and decided an extra week working out in California with Braves teammate Jack Wilson would be fine.
One problem: Most of the Braves showed up well before Friday.
“I’ve been working hard all spring,” the 22-year-old Pastornicky explained. “I had a trip planned for California and wanted to make sure I was ready. I want to do this.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez agreed, though he isn’t ready to officially hand Pastornicky the starting job.
“We have a lot of good infielders in camp this year,” Gonzalez said. “We could even move Chipper (Jones) over if we have to. But I like the kid. I don’t mind that he waited until the last minute because he was getting his work in out in California.
“As long as he’s ready, that’s the important thing.”
Wilson thinks he is.
“The kid can play and he works as hard as anybody,” said Wilson, the Braves utility infielder who will miss up to six weeks with a strained calf. “I watched him and know he has his head in the game.
“He’s ready for the big leagues.”
Pastornicky hit .314 combined in Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett last season and is known for being above-average defensively. He spent most of his first time in the batting cage Friday spraying line drives around and handled ground balls like a veteran.
And though Pastornicky is set to be the only new cog in Atlanta’s lineup, last year he had only 24 hours to enjoy his debut.
During the final weekend of the season as Atlanta was putting the final touches on blowing its 9½-game lead in the National League Wild Card race, Gonzalez brought up Pastornicky for the final game after starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez was injured.
His first game in a Braves uniform turned out to be last of the season as St. Louis grabbed the wild card spot and ultimately won the World Series.
“It was only one day, but I hope it isn’t the only one,” Pastornicky said. “I worked for this chance my whole life and it all came true.
“I didn’t play and I knew I was only there in case of an emergency, but it was worth it.”
In 117 games last season between Mississippi (AA) and Gwinnett (AAA), Pastornicky hit .314.