Friday, March 15, 2013
© Copyright 2013
Gwinnett Daily Post
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nearly a month late, Jose Constanza was finally in a Braves uniform on Friday.
Constanza was delayed in his native Dominican Republic because of visa issues and in the process has likely fallen behind Jordan Schafer in a battle for a reserve outfield spot.
"I'm very happy to be here," he said through an interpreter. "I was sad, nervous."
So why did he have so much trouble getting his visa?
"I was the last on the list," Constanza said. "I had to wait for my name to come up."
Constanza, 29, spent parts of the last two seasons in Atlanta, hitting .303 in 109 at-bats in 2011 and .250 in 76 at-bats last year. He spent most of both seasons with AAA Gwinnett, leading the International League with a .324 average in 2012 after batting .312 the previous year.
The left-handed hitter had been staying in shape by working out at the Braves' academy in the Dominican since playing in the Caribbean Series for his country. He also played in the Dominican Winter League, batting .346 in 30 games.
"I was worried. I didn't want to miss spring training," Constanza said of his long delay in making it to camp.
Schafer, re-claimed by the Braves off waivers from Houston during the offseason, has taken advantage of Constanza's absence to push ahead in a bid for a roster spot. The 26-year-old is hitting .250 with three doubles and two RBIs in 16 games.
Schafer started the 2009 season as the Braves' regular center fielder, but has never lived up to his early promise. He hit .211 in 106 games with the Astros last season.
Also working against Constanza is that Schafer is out of minor league options and he is not.