Braves notes: Constanza finally arrives

Braves outfielder Jose Constanza finally arrived in camp Friday after immigration delays in his native Dominican Republic.

Now the question is whether it’s too late for Constanza to earn a spot on the big-league roster coming out of camp.

While Constanza was trying to return to the United States, Jordan Schafer has made a case for the No. 4 outfield job with his bat, defense and speed. Schafer is out of options and would have to clear waivers if the Braves send him down, a circumstance that would seem to boost his chances of sticking with the big-league club.

Constanza played in 42 games for the Braves in 2011 and 37 games last season. Over those two stints he hit .281 with two home runs, 14 RBIs and a .332 on-base percentage with 12 stolen bases.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Constanza’s history with the club helps his chances.

“We know him. It’s not like we’ve never seen him,” Gonzalez said. “We know what he can do. We will get him some at-bats. I don’t think he’s ready for nine innings off the street, but we will get him some at-bats here and there.”

Constanza said he worked with a personal trainer and coach in Santo Domingo while waiting for his immigration paperwork to clear.

After playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, Constanza had visa issues when he tried to leave for Braves camp. Constanza said he was concerned about missing spring training, but figured he would join the Braves eventually.

“There was an investigation of every baseball player in the Dominican, and I was the last guy,” Constanza said through interpreter Eddie Perez, a Braves coach. “That’s why it took too long.”

Walden eyes return: Braves right-hander Jordan Walden, out since Feb. 23 with a bulging disk in his back, said he's scheduled to throw batting practice Saturday after a pair of bullpen sessions went well.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I’m feeling really good. I’m rehabbing a lot and I feel great. I want to get back out there.”

Walden said he hopes to pitch in a game early next week “but that’s not my call.” He said he thinks he can be ready for Opening Day.

The Braves acquired Walden from the Angels in a trade for Tommy Hanson in November. He’s expected to serve in a setup role for the Braves.

Hudson better: After getting knocked around by the Marlins in his previous outing, Braves right-hander Tim Hudson was sharper Friday against the Mets. Hudson allowed five hits and two earned runs with two walks and a strikeout in the Braves' 5-2 loss.

“A little better,” he said. “It’s a step in the right direction. I’m still not anywhere near where I want to be.”

In the second inning Hudson gave up a leadoff homer to Lucas Duda and an RBI double to Brandon Hicks. From there, the Mets managed only two hits over the next four innings.

Hudson, who threw 45 strikes among 85 pitches, has worked on fine-tuning his delivery.

“Delivery is getting a little more consistent,,” Hudson said. “It’s headed in the right direction. It’s just taking a little bit longer than I’d like.”

Etc.: The Braves on Friday optioned first baseman Ernesto Mejia to Triple-A Gwinnett and re-assigned catcher Matt Kennelly, shortstop Elmer Reyes and outfielder Todd Cunningham to minor-league camp. … Juan Francisco, who is competing with Chris Johnson to be the regular third baseman, hit his third homer of the season in the third inning. "(Francisco) swings the bat well, and Chris, you run him out there and he gets some big hits, too," Gonzalez said. "It will play itself out." … Braves shortstop Tyler Pastornicky ranged to his right to throw out a base runner in the eighth inning, a play that Johnson, playing first base, punctuated by scooping the ball out of the dirt. "He's been impressive at first base," Gonzalez said. "That's a nice option to have." … Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman's long home run to right in the third inning was his team-leading fourth of the spring. Freeman is batting .333 (16-for-48). … Braves left-hander Paul Maholm is set to face Yankees right-handed David Phelps on Saturday at Champion Stadium.