Braves rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons expected to make his debut tonight

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ATLANTA — When choosing between Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons in spring training, the Braves said they opted for the more polished offensive player when Pastornicky was named the starting shortstop.

Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

Now it’s time for the better defensive player.

Simmons is expected to make his debut as the Braves’ starter when the team opens a series at Washington tonight.

Simmons, regarded as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstop prospects, was called up after Wednesday night’s win over St. Louis. Pastornicky was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.

“They feel like I needed more work defensively,” said Pastornicky, who was hitting .248 but already had seven errors. “It’s never good news, but I’ve just got to keep grinding. I think I did OK. I don’t think I played up to my satisfaction.”

Simmons, 22, almost beat out Pastornicky this spring. He has worked to disprove his reputation as a player with limited offensive potential, even after winning the batting title in the Class A Carolina League last year, hitting .311 for Lynchburg.

The Braves wanted to see Simmons hit against more advanced pitching. Simmons was hitting .292 at Double-A Mississippi this year. The team will be happy if Simmons’ offense comes close to the numbers provided by Pastornicky. They’re expecting much more on defense, since Pastornicky can’t match Sim­mons’ range or exceptionally strong arm.

“He has special talents,” said general manager Frank Wren of Simmons’ defensive skills.

TODAY’S GAME

WHO: Atlanta (Mike Minor, 2-4, 6.98) at Washington (Stephen Strasburg, 5-1, 2.64)

WHEN: 7:10 p.m., FS South


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