LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — He missed the first three weeks of the Grapefruit League schedule, but Tyler Pastornicky had just enough time to show Braves officials he’s recovered from September knee surgery and ready to play.
He had three RBIs in his second consecutive two-hit game Wednesday, and barring anything unexpected the former shortstop turned utility player is expected to fill the Braves’ last bench vacancy when they announce their 25-man opening-day roster in the next day or two.
Pastornicky is 5-for-12 (.417) in five Grapefruit League games and got about a dozen at-bats in minor league games.
“He looks good,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I’ll check with him to see how his legs are; it’s the first time he played nine (innings) and he ran the bases a lot. But during the game he said he felt great.”
The Braves optioned first baseman Ernesto Mejia to Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday leaving 29 players on the camp roster including 15 position players. They will have 13 position players on the opening day roster, with infielder Phil Gosselin and catcher Steve Lerud likely to be dropped to reach that number.
Pastornicky is expected to fill out a bench that includes infielder Ramiro Pena, outfielder Jordan Schafer, and catchers Gerald Laird and Ryan Doumit.
The final starter in the opening-day four-man rotation will be David Hale or Gus Schlosser, with the loser of that battle likely going to the bullpen to join a group expected to include Craig Kimbrel, left-handers Luis Avilan and Ian Thomas, and right-handers Jordan Walden, Anthony Varvaro and David Carpenter.
Sidearmer Cory Gearrin had been penciled in for a bullpen spot before leaving Tuesday’s game with an elbow injury. He was to be examined to determine the severity of the injury, and the Braves had no update on his condition as of Wednesday afternoon.
Barring a late trade, the last bullpen spot could go to one of two rookie lefties, Ryan Buchter or Atahualpo Severino. Buchter is already on the 40-man roster, meaning another move wouldn’t have to be made to open a spot. Severino is not on the 40-man.