Outfielder Jose Constanza arrived at Turner Field about 5:15 p.m. Friday afternoon, just in time from a flight from Durham to get in uniform and meet the Braves on the field where they were already taking batting practice.
He had just over two hours to prepare for his first ever major league start, in center field and the leadoff spot in place of the injured Nate McLouth. The Braves hoped he’d do it just like he doesn’t about everything else on the field – in a hurry.
Martin Prado gave a one-word scouting report on Constanza, shortly after greeting him in the dugout with a hug and pleasantries Friday afternoon.
“Fast,” Prado said, looking back to several reporters as he jogged back onto the field.
Constanza showed how a few hours later, just running to first base on three groundouts in his first three major-league at-bats – none of which left the infield. But Constanza found a hole up the middle in his fourth and final at-bat and came away with his first major league hit and a key add-on RBI in a 5-0 win.
“The first two at-bats, I was anxious,” Constanza said, with Prado translating for him. “I tried to battle until the end.”
Then he really put on a show with his speed, going first to third on a Prado single and scoring easily on a fairly shallow sacrifice fly by Freddie Freeman.
“Big RBI against a tough left-hander,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of lefty reliever Mike Dunn. “He was able to get us that fourth run and run first to third. It’s nice to see that.”
Constanza was hitting .312 in Triple-A Gwinnett with 23 stolen bases in 31 attempts. He had two doubles, four triples, and a .361 on-base percentage. He bats left-handed – don’t all Braves outfielders? – and he can play all three outfield positions.
“Maybe he can get us going a little bit,” Gonzalez had said before the game.
Constanza, 27, signed with the Braves as a six-year minor league free agent from the Indians and was a non-roster invitee to Braves major league camp.
To make room for Constanza on the 40-man roster, the Braves designated shortstop Diory Hernandez for assignment. They have 10 days to trade him or if not, and he clears waivers, the Braves plan to outright him back to Triple-A Gwinnett.