Pastornicky impresses during memorable Opening Day debut

NEW YORK  —  Tyler Pastornicky struggled to deal with the pressure he felt during the early weeks of Spring Training.  But the night before making his Major League debut as the Braves’ starting shortstop in front of a raucous Opening Day crowd, Pastornicky soundly slept in his Manhattan hotel room.

“I was just overly tired,” Pastornicky said. “It’s been kind of a long couple of days.”

This has been quite a week for Pastornicky, who learned on Monday that he had won his battle against Andrelton Simmons to begin the year as Atlanta’s starting shortstop.  The 22-year-old infielder enjoyed seeing New York City for the first time on Wednesday.

But this week’s greatest thrill occurred at Citi Field on Thursday afternoon  as he experienced the thrill of playing in his first big league game.  The debut proved memorable even though his contributions did not prevent the Braves from suffering a 1-0 Opening Day loss to the Mets.

“I felt great,” Pastornicky said. “I think I got all of my nerves out in Spring Training with that terrible start.  I felt great. It was a tough game.  But, it was good to get the first one out of the way.”

Pastornicky notched his first Major League hit with a seventh-inning triple off Ramon Ramirez.  But his most encouraging plate appearance might have transpired in the fifth inning, when he fell behind with an 0-2 count and then drew a walk off Johan Santana.   This led Santana to throw an additional 16 pitches and end his outing after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.

“That’s one thing I had to learn in Spring Training, hitting eighth with the pitcher behind you in  a spot like that, you’re probably not going to get many good pitches to hit,” Pastornicky said. “So I had to definitely use patience there.”

As Pastornicky ranged to his left to grab a second inning grounder and helped turn a fourth-inning double play, his parents were watching from their stadium seats.  The Blue Jays paid for Cliff Pastornicky and his wife, Jane, to travel to New York to see their son’s debut. The elder Pastornicky is a professional scout for the Blue Jays.

“I can’t believe they would do something like that,” Pastornicky said. “It’s awesome. That’s classy.”


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