Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 3/19/12
Heading to camp a month ago, the Braves really had no spots up for grabs. Sure, there was that fifth starting spot, but the three candidates were obvious: left-hander Mike Minor and rookie right-handers Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran. The main question mark was whether the Braves would be OK with rookie Tyler Pastornicky at shortstop. That question became slightly more urgent when his veteran backup, shortstop Jack Wilson, strained his right calf while hosting Pastornicky for workouts at his home in the week leading up to camp. There also was the less worrisome issue of who might be another outfielder. Matt Diaz is on the bench for that already, and speedster Jose Constanza, who is out of options, needs to show he can get on base often enough to make his speed a factor. But after the first spate of exhibition games, there are some intriguing possibilities to make the opening day roster: Prospect Andrelton Simmons is playing dazzling defense and is hitting, too, besting Pastornicky in both areas. He could become the first Brave since Rafael Furcal to make the jump from Class A ball to the majors if this keeps up. At Advanced A Lynchburg last season, Simmons batted .311, the only Carolina League hitter to top .300. A native of Curacao, he was at Turner Field as a guest of Andruw Jones when he was 11 as part of their country's Little League championship team. He also pitched when he was a kid, which might come in handy in an emergency. Meanwhile, in center field, right fielder Jason Heyward has been getting some looks, to see whether he could fill in there for a game or so in a pinch. The answer is yes. So the Braves might not need to carry another spare outfielder. Or they might want to go with corner outfielder Jordan Parraz. Parraz, 28, was hitting .429 after 14 at-bats in 11 games. He's been one of the few Braves to get a hit so far in spring training. NOTES, QUOTES -3B Chipper Jones' musings about his balky knees, and his jokes about them, sparked an erroneous report that he would retire before the season started. That is not the case. He is signed through this season and intends to finish it. An option for 2013 could vest, but he isn't thinking about that now. -SS prospect Andrelton Simmons's play is turning heads, to the degree that he could make the team out of spring training, despite never having played above Class A. The last player to do that for the Braves was SS Rafael Furcal. -RF Jason Heyward started in center field in last Sunday's split squad game against the Blue Jays. If he's a potential alternative there for a game or so in emergencies, then the Braves won't have to carry a specific backup for center. -RHP Tim Hudson has been cleared to pitch and has thrown his first full side session. He is still targeting the beginning of May to make his season debut, but manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell keep emphasizing that the Braves have plenty of arms with which to start the season, and it isn't worth it for Hudson to rush himself. -RHP Arodys Vizcaino has an appointment on March 19 to have his right elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews. An MRI exam has confirmed ulnar collateral ligament inflammation, which he battled in 2010. He did not have surgery on it then. QUOTE TO NOTE "For me, getting lefties out and commanding my changeup is a big deal." -- RHP Cory Gearrin, who is fighting for a spot in the bullpen.
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