MIAMI – While wait to see if Matt Diaz will require potentially season-ending thumb surgery, the Braves recalled outfielder Jose Constanza from Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday for his second stint with the major league team this year.
Right-handed reliever Anthony Varvaro, who has a 5.40 ERA in 12 appearances, was optioned to Triple-A to open a roster spot.
Constanza hit .324 with a .386 on-base percentage and 11 stolen bases in 71 games at Gwinnett, and had a 22-game hitting streak snapped last week.
“He was swinging it pretty good down there,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He gives us a chance to defend, if we want to, late in the game. Say you don’t want to run [Eric] Hinske out there [in the outfield]. He can pinch-run off the bench.”
The Braves could’ve used a right-handed bat to fill in for Diaz, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday. But they didn’t have any other outfielders on the 40-man roster at Gwinnett who fit the bill or were doing as well as Constanza, who had a .388 average and .446 on-base percentage in 17 July games at Gwinnett.
First baseman Ernesto Mejia, a right-handed hitter, had a .307 average, .366 OBP and 21 homers at Gwinnett, but wasn’t on the 40-man roster.
Since the Braves aren’t sure yet whether Diaz will be able to avoid surgery for the “foreign bodies” causing swelling in his thumb, they didn’t want to make a 40-man roster move. Also, Constanza can play all three outfield positions, and the Braves can use him to fill in while they monitor Diaz and consider outfield trade possibilities before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
“He’s a 40-man roster guy, but I think he’s earned that chance to be called up,” Gonzalez said of Constanza. “Plus, we know him.”
Constanza hit .303 with a .339 OBP and seven steals in 42 games (119 plate appearances) for the Braves last season in his first major league callup at age 27.