LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Tyler Pastornicky’s fall from grace in the Braves organization was completed when the infielder was given his unconditional release.
In a three-year span, Pastornicky went from being the Braves’ 2012 opening-day shortstop at age 22, to being dropped from the 40-man roster and designated for assignment in January, outrighted and assigned to minor league camp soon after, and altogether dismissed.
Pastornicky was notified of his release Wednesday and a Braves official confirmed the move Thursday.
“Getting designated over the winter and not invited to big league camp, you could kind of see I was not in their plans anymore,” Pastornicky said. “It’s a business. It’s part of the game. That’s how it goes.”
The Braves didn’t give an explanation, but clearly the organization didn’t believe Pastornicky, 25, was likely to help them now or down the line. He had just 80 plate appearances in the majors during the past two seasons and was limited for much of the 2014 season by soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.
The knee injury, a torn anterior cruciate ligament, occurred at a most inopportune time, when he was set to get regular playing time filling in for Dan Uggla in August 2013 while Uggla recovered from LASIK surgery. Pastornicky required season-ending surgery for the injury after colliding with right fielder Jason Heyward pursuing a pop fly.
Phil Gosselin was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett at that point, and it was Gosselin the Braves turned to again last season when Uggla was released after the All-Star break. Gosselin spent the rest of the season with the Braves and is expected to have a spot on the opening-day roster as a utility infielder.
“The knee injury was hart,” Pastornicky said. “But it’s just part of the journey. Everybody’s got their adversities. Just have to stay positive, keep trucking and find a position somewhere else. (Getting released now) still gives me some time to try to latch on with another team, get to camp and try to make an impression.”
Pastornicky hit .290 with one homer and a .676 OPS in 47 games at Triple-A Gwinnett last season, and went 8-for-40 in 28 games with the big-league Braves including 10 starts at second base. He was dropped from the 40-man roster in January to open a spot when the Braves made official the signings catcher A.J. Pierzynski and relievers Jason Grilli and Josh Outman.
Pastornicky opened the 2012 season as the Braves’ starting shortstop after winning a spring-training battle with defensive wunderkind Andrelton Simmons, who had not played above Single-A at that point. Simmons outplayed him for the first half of that spring training, before Simmons slumped after getting hurt and trying to play through it without telling anyone.
When Pastornicky struggled both offensively and defensively to start the 2012 season, batting .248 with a .281 OBP and .324 slugging percentage in 45 games before the Braves decided they’d seen enough. Pastornicky was optioned to Gwinnett and Simmons was brought up from Double A.
Pastornicky has a .243 career average, .295 on-base percentage and .314 slugging percentage in 268 plate appearances during parts of three major league seasons, with 11 extra-base hits (two homers) and two stolen bases in 124 games.
Simmons is now a two-time Gold Glove winner entering the second year of a seven-year, $58 million contract extension he signed in February 2014, when he was still a year away from arbitration eligibility.
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