DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Even when the Braves revealed their plan to begin this year with Tyler Pastornicky as their starting shortstop, there was reason to wonder if Andrelton Simmons would assume the role after spending this season's first few months gaining further development in the Minors.
Simmons has since impressed enough to cause the Braves to think about allowing him to jump straight to the Majors from the Class A Minor League level. But with a little more than a week remaining in the exhibition season, it remains unclear who will begin the season as Atlanta's starting shortstop.
"The guy we take [to start the season] might not be the guy you end up with anyways," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "This game is funny. It's a long season. So we could break with Pastornicky and a month later Simmons comes or we could break with Simmons and Pastornicky could come a month later. There's crazy things like that."
While Simmons impressed with his superior defensive talents early on in camp, he has recorded just three hits in his past 19 at-bats. Meanwhile, Pastornicky has recorded seven hits in his past 13 at-bats and admitted that he is now much more comfortable than he was when he came to camp with the pressure of preparing to make his Major League debut as a starting shortstop.
"His bat has been coming around," Gonzalez said. "It looks like he has been settling down a little bit in the field."
Pastornicky's opposite-field double in the sixth inning of Saturday's loss to the Blue Jays added to his recent success. He produced a key 10th-inning single in Wednesday's win over the Nationals and produced a four-hit game against the Marlins the next day.
Simmons' offensive skills were questioned when the Braves drafted him as a pitcher in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft and again before he won the Carolina League batting title last year. With his lone full professional season coming at the Class A-Advanced level, the 22-year-old shortstop could seemingly benefit from the chance to at least prove he can hit Double-A pitching.
Another factor weighing against Simmons is the fear that Pastornicky's psyche could be damaged if he begins this year in the Minors after spending most of this winter preparing to make the jump to the Majors and serve as a starting shortstop.