WASHINGTON -- Before Andrelton Simmons strained his left oblique muscle during the latter portion of Spring Training, some members of the Braves organization believed he should make the jump from the Class A Advanced Minor League level to the Major Leagues at the start of the regular season.
Having had the opportunity to spend the past two months gaining more seasoning with Double-A Mississippi, a more prepared Simmons has made the leap to the Majors to begin what could be a long reign as Atlanta's starting shortstop.
"I think if everything goes right and we know what we're seeing, you may see this guy here for a very long time," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
After watching Simmons dazzle with his tremendous defensive skills during Spring Training, Gonzalez was happy to put the young shortstop in his lineup for Friday night's scheduled game against the Nationals. But because the game was postponed by rain, the anticipated debut had to wait at least one more day.
"This is what you're waiting for your whole life," Simmons said. "It's what you worked for the whole time. But still, once you get here, it's not about getting here anymore. It's about performing and staying here and trying to help your team win."
There are a very few questions about Simmons' ability to provide the defensive dependability Tyler Pastornicky did not provide over the season's first two months. But some have doubted his offensive capabilities since the Braves drafted him as a pitcher in the second round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
Simmons convinced the club to allow him to play shortstop, and he eased some doubts about his offense while winning the Carolina League batting title with Class A Advanced Lynchburg last year. Challenged by Double-A pitchers this year, he hit .292 with a .794 OPS in 43 games for Mississippi.
"I knew my weaknesses and that I needed to work on some stuff, like going to the opposite field, staying back, letting the ball get deeper," Simmons said. "I worked on it. The coaches there helped me a lot. I had my ups and downs, but I feel like I'm getting better every day."
When asked in late February about his goals for this season, Simmons displayed his confident smile and said, "What do you think?"
Two months later, while sitting at a steakhouse near Mississippi's Trustman Park on Wednesday night, Simmons received word that he would realize this goal of reaching the big leagues. But before getting too excited, he admits he asked his manager Aaron Holbert to prove he was not playing a joke on him.
"I wasn't thinking about it," Simmons said. "At the beginning of the year, I was trying. But after a couple of games, I was focused on playing at Double-A and getting better and helping the team win. When I was least expecting it, they told me. So it's kind of crazy."
Pastornicky to play second, outfield in Minors
WASHINGTON -- Tyler Pastornicky might not have the range to be an everyday shortstop at the Major League level. But the Braves believe his offensive skills and potential versatility could provide him a chance to be successful in the big leagues.
Once the Braves determined on Wednesday that it was time to bring Andrelton Simmons to Atlanta to be their starting shortstop, Pastornicky learned that he had been optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said the plan is for Pastornicky to prepare for a utility role by playing second base and some of the outfield positions over the next couple of months.
"I think he's a big part of this organization," Gonzalez said. "It's not like we're going to discard him. We like what we saw from him offensively. We compare him to like Omar Infante.
"We might not have seen the Tyler Pastornicky offensively that everybody talks about. Now you can free him up a little bit to play second base or shortstop. He can play shortstop in one or two games. We're going to try to let him play the outfield a little bit this summer, let him move around."
Pastornicky had no reason to be ashamed of what he accomplished at the plate during the first two months of his Major League career. He was hitting .276 with a .308 on-base percentage as recently as May 21. But while recording just two hits in his last 22 at-bats, he saw those numbers drop to .248 and .281.
"It's always tough whenever one of your teammates gets sent down or traded or anything like that, especially a kid like Pastornicky, who can hit in the big leagues," Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. "This is a small bump in the road for him. ... It's a big hit to your ego. You've got to swallow your pride, go down and do what you've got to do to get back to the big leagues. But he's not the kind of kid who is a punk. He's not going to take any [garbage] from anybody. Once he gets smacked in the mouth like this, he's going to smack back."
Fredi plans to send Chipper on rehab stint
WASHINGTON -- Chipper Jones has admitted he does not like going on Minor League rehab assignments. But Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he will be pushing Jones to play at least a couple games before he is activated from the disabled list.
"He never wants to go down," Gonzalez said. "But this time, I'm going to beg him and plead my case, even if I've got to bribe him. I don't want to play him for two days and then lose him for 15 [days]."
Jones was forced to go on the disabled list with a severely bruised left calf that he suffered during a May 18 game in St. Petersburg. Because he pinch-hit five days later, he will not be eligible for activation before Friday. But the 40-year-old veteran might need a few more days to recover from a minor surgical procedure performed last week to drain blood from the injured area.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.