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Schafer wins roster spot in return to Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jordan Schafer has gone from starting center fielder to fifth outfielder. But four years after his hyped arrival, the former top prospect will be back on the Braves' opening roster.

That was determined when Jose Constanza was optioned to Class AAA Gwinnett on Tuesday, clearing a place for Schafer.

The other spot decided was for the backup middle infielder. Ramiro Pena, as expected, won out over Tyler Pastornicky, who was also optioned to the G-Braves.

Sent down to Gwinnett as well was reliever David Carpenter. That left 28 active players in camp.

Decisions still must be made on the April backup catcher -- either Evan Gattis or Matt Pagnozzi -- and the final spots in the bullpen. Cristhian Martinez and Anthony Varvaro are both out of minor league options and one may be traded.

Gerald Laird, who returned to the Braves' lineup Tuesday against Detroit in Lakeland after resting a score calf, will be the regular catcher until Brian McCann is ready to play.

McCann batted twice as the designated hitter in a minor league game Tuesday and had a sacrifice fly and a fly out. He won't be cleared for full action until April 16 -- six months after his shoulder surgery.

Constanza, who won the International League batting title with a .314 average for Gwinnett last season, fell behind the 28-year-old Schafer when he missed the first month of spring training because of visa issues in his native Dominican Republic.

But Schafer, who was re-claimed off waivers from Houston last fall, earned his roster spot with a solid spring and a more mature attitude than when he first came up with the Braves in 2009.

Schafer homered leading off the opener the year at Philadelphia. But he was optioned to Gwinnett after .204 in 50 games and then had to have wrist surgery.

In 2011, Schafer was dealt to Houston as part of the Michael Bourn trade and hit just .211 with the Astros last season.

Pastornicky, 23, opened last season as the Braves' regular shortstop, but struggled defensively and was replaced by Andrelton Simmons in June.

Now the Braves look at Pastornicky as someone who will eventually prove valuable because of his potential to play second base and the outfield as well as shortstop and swing a good bat.

"I think he's going to be a good big league player," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "I don't know exactly what the role is going to be. At the very minimum it's going to be a super-utility that plays all over and has offensive ability."

Pastornicky hit .375 with six extra-base hits and 14 RBIs in 56 at-bats this spring and also drew seven walks for .444 on-base percentage.

But Pena, 27, also hit well and got the nod because he is the better defensive player and was out of minor-league options.