Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Gwinnett Braves Joey Terdoslavich takes an at bat during last season at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.
Joey Terdoslavich is ready to guarantee one thing to Gwinnett Braves fans.
The player they see at Coolray Field this season won't be the same struggling one they saw last year.
"Everything kind of piled up on me," Terdoslavich said in spring training of that humbling experience.
But the switch-hitter is no longer playing third base and the holes in his swing have been corrected.
No longer burdened with the expectations of being the heir apparent to Chipper Jones in Atlanta, Terdoslavich appears ready for a breakout Class AAA season.
It is just coming a year later than had been hoped.
"I feel like I'm more prepared," the 24-year-old said before leaving Florida. "I know what to expect and I'm really looking forward to it."
Instead of third base, Terdoslavich will be in the outfield when the G-Braves open the International League season at home Thursday night against Charlotte. He showed he could handle himself there this spring with Atlanta and swung the bat like the Braves always felt he could.
Terdoslavich hit .395 with four doubles, a homer and eight RBIs in 43 at-bats during 26 Grapefruit League games.
As impressive as those numbers were, though, there was no question where Terdoslavich would start the season. He had already been rushed too fast once before -- just a year ago.
"I knew it was going to be really, really tough for me to make the team," Terdoslavich said after being sent to minor league camp. "Now I've just got to go down, get my at-bats and continue to build on what I started here."
That includes playing the outfield. That is his primary position now, although he will also see some time at first base.
"I was impressed with the way he picked up the outfield," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He did a good job."
"I'm getting comfortable," Terdoslavich said in spring training. "I don't feel out of place. I feel good out there. It will just take time to get used to everything. But I've worked hard at it."
Terdoslavich worked hard to master third base as well. It just never happened.
In 50 games at third last season with Gwinnett, he committed 22 errors. That is a dismal .822 fielding percentage.
Terdoslavich also didn't come close to meeting expectations at the plate while making the jump from the Class A Advanced Carolina League, hitting .180 and striking out 50 times in 194 at-bats.
As convenient as it would be, Terdoslavich doesn't lay the blame for his woes at the plate to his issues in the field.
"I think my struggles offensively and defensively were two different things," he said. "I had some things going on in my swing that weren't allowing me to do the things I had always done in the past."
Terdoslavich, who had set a Carolina League record with 52 doubles in 2011, feels that he had begun to eliminate the hitch in his swing before being sent down to Class AA Mississippi and that it wasn't just the move to first base that helped him get going offensively.
In an impressive bounce back, Terdoslavich hit .315 with 34 extra-base hits and 51 RBIs in 79 games at Mississippi.
"I got the hitch out of my swing and everything has gone pretty well since," he said. "I worked on it again over the winter and I felt good this spring. I'm not missing pitches like I was early last year."
The original plan was for Terdoslavich to go from the instruction league last fall to the Dominican Winter League to gain more experience in the outfield. That didn't work out, but maybe it wasn't necessary.
Terdoslavich fell to No. 15 on the MLB.com list of top Braves prospects and was dropped to No. 18 by Baseball America. Now he seems poised to move back up.
But is there a future spot for him in Atlanta? The additions of B.J. and Justin Upton completed the Braves' outfield and Freddie Freeman is entrenched at first base.
There is always room for someone who can hit, though. Terdoslavich seems on the way to reestablishing himself at the plate.
"The old adage is, 'If you can hit, a team will find a spot for you.' He's shown us he can hit," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "The more versatility he has is going to make it better for him in the long run."