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BRAVES NOTES: Schafer takes advanage of Constanza's woes

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- At least Jose Constanza's absence wasn't noticed Wednesday. The Braves had the day off anyway.

With spring training three weeks old, Constanza remains stuck in his native Dominican Republic because of visa problems and his bad news has been good news for Jordan Schafer.

Trying to restart his career after a lot more downs and than ups, Schafer is hitting .318 and stated his case for beating out the missing Constanza for a backup outfield spot against the New York Yankees in Tampa on Tuesday night.

Schafer, who rejoined the Braves when he was claimed off waivers from Houston, scored in the first inning after a leadoff double and had two walks and a stolen base in the 2-0 victory.

The Braves don't know when Constanza, who won the International League batting title last year, will arrive in camp and he appears to now be behind Schafer in competition for the open spot as the team's fifth outfielder.

Constanza can be sent to Gwinnett without having to clear waivers. Schafer, who is out of options, cannot.

Uggla gets a scare

Dan Uggla was not injured when he was hit in the back of the batting helmet by a pitch during the sixth inning of the game against the Yankees.

The second baseman broke a 0-for-13 slump with a home run against Detroit on Sunday, but his average is .130 and he has struck out 12 times in 23 at-bats.

Uggla slumped badly in the second half last season and finished with career lows in average (.220), homers (17) and RBI (78) while striking out 168 times.

Third base battle

Both Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco got off to hot starts at the plate as they battled to replace retired third baseman Chipper Jones.

Johnson was 3-for-3 with his second spring homer on Monday against the New York Mets, and was hitting .364. Francisco was at .360 with a homer and also had four RBI.

Johnson was seeing time at first base as a potential backup to Freddie Freeman as well as playing third.

Walden shut down

Reliever Jordan Walden was shut down with tightness in his back after allowing four runs (one earned) in an outing against the Yankees on Feb. 23 in the third spring game.

Walden, who was acquired form the Angles for RHP Tommy Hanson to boost the Braves' already solid bullpen, missed time last season with injury problems.

The right-hander was sent back to Atlanta to be examined further.

O'Flaherty on hold

Left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty had a slight groin strain and didn't see action during the first two weeks of exhibition games.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez had planned to hold the reliever out of the first week anyway because of the length of spring training this year and O'Flaherty's history of back issues.

O'Flaherty, who had a 0.98 ERA in 78 games in 2011, posted a 1.73 ERA in 64 games last year.

Simmons plays on

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons batted .308 (4-for-13) as the Netherlands advanced to the second round of the World Baseball Classic by going 2-1 during pool play in Taiwan.

He had three doubles, scored three times and drove in a run. Simmons, who batted leadoff as he likely will with the Braves this season, struck out once and didn't draw a walk. The Netherlands plays Cuba on Friday.

Pastornicky hot

Tyler Pastornicky was getting plenty of playing time at shortstop with Simmons (Netherlands) and Ramiro Pena (Mexico) away at the WBC and he is batting .409 with two homers and seven RBI.

Pastornicky started last season as a regular with the Braves, but is now behind Pena in a battle for a utility role in 2013.