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G-BRAVES NOTES: Spring slump could cost Constanza job in Atlanta

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jose Constanza's first chance in the major leagues couldn't have started any better.

Promoted from Gwinnett in late July, the speedy outfielder hit .403 in his first 17 games with Atlanta and even hit a rare home run.

But Constanza sprained an ankle in late August and was just 4-for-31 the rest of the season, his averaging dropping to a still-impressive .303 in 42 games.

The slump from late last year has continued this spring, though, and the left-handed hitter appears more likely to be back with the G-Braves at the start of the 2012 season than with Atlanta.

Constanza, 28, has just four hits in 26 at-bats for a .154 Grapefruit League average and appears third in a three-way battle for a backup outfield spots with the Braves.

Like Constanza a year ago, Jordan Parraz and Luis Durango were signed by Atlanta as minor league free agents and both have had impressive springs.

The right-handed hitting Parraz is batting .414 with a triple, homer and six RBIs. Switch-hitter Durango is 10-for-20 and his .500 average is enhanced further by five walks.

Parraz, 27, and Durango, 25, are also considered better suited than Constanza to play any of the outfield spots, with Parraz having a powerful arm and Durango the most outfield range of the trio.

Like Constanza, Durango has a little major league experience. Parraz doesn't, but he seems to be getting the longest look by Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez.

"So far, he's swung the bat well," Gonzalez said. "He has some pop. Everything is about timing and opportunity. But yeah, I like what I see."

The Braves are the fifth organization for Parraz, who was originally drafted by Houston. He went to spring training with the New York Yankees last year and had a solid season in the International League with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting .289 and posting an .802 OPS with 43-extra base hits.

Parraz had a bid for a game-winning grand slam knocked down by the wind Monday against St. Louis. But he had a two-out game-tying double in the ninth inning Wednesday against Houston and he singled and scored the tying run in the ninth Thursday against Miami.

"I thought the Braves were a good opportunity for me and I've been given a chance to show what I can do," Parraz said. "Now I just have to keep it up and hope for the best."Mejia off to rough startErnesto Mejia, expected to replace Mauro Gomez as the Gwinnett first baseman this season, has just two hits in 15 at-bats with the Braves in Grapefruit League games. One of the hits was a triple, though.

Mejia, 26, made the Class AA Southern League all-star team last season after batting .297 with 37 doubles, 26 homers and 99 RBIs for Mississippi. Set team records for homers and RBIs, but led the league with 156 strikeouts.

With Mejia still with the Braves, former Cuban defector Donel Linares has been playing first base for the G-Braves. Linares, 28, hit .279 with seven homers and 62 RBIs for Mississippi while playing mostly third base.Hamstring slows WilsonVeteran utility infielder Josh Wilson hadn't played since March 7 before getting an at-bat in the Braves' game with Washington on Wednesday and drawing a walk.

Wilson, who was 0-for-1 and committed an error on Thursday against Miami, suffered a strained hamstring. Being sidelined for two weeks likely assured that he will start the season in Gwinnett.

Wilson, 31, was signed as a minor league free agent by the Braves after playing with Arizona and Milwaukee in 2011. He was Seattle's regular shortstop in 2010.