02/27/12 2:42 PM EST
Prospect Simmons wants Majors debut in 2012
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
"Of course, who doesn't [want to play in the Majors]," Simmons said. "During the year at some time, I'm hoping to be there and try to help the team win. It's possible. I know I've still got some stuff to learn. I'm trying to learn as quick as I can."
The Braves are preparing to enter this season with Tyler Pastornicky as their starting shortstop. But the organization knows Simmons could be Major League-ready by this time next year. He is ranked by MLB.com as baseball's ninth-best shortstop prospect.
There are few defensive concerns surrounding Simmons, who has wowed scouts with his glove. Less than two years removed from his collegiate career at Western Oklahoma State, he needs to compile more at-bats at the Minor League level. But the 22-year-old shortstop opened some eyes last summer when he won the Carolina League batting title.
Simmons' .311 batting average last year was 21 points higher than the next qualified batter. He possesses some speed, but is still learning the art of stealing bases. He was successful with 26 of his 44 stolen-base attempts last year.
"I was happy with the season, but you're always looking to improve, too," Simmons said. "So I'm never satisfied. The whole year I was trying to do work. I learned a lot from the full season last year."
The Braves drafted Simmons as a pitcher in the second round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. But the young shortstop was able to convince the club to allow him to begin his professional career as a position player.
"They gave me a chance," Simmons said. "We talked for a bit and they decided to give me a chance. Apparently, I'm doing well."
Justice, McGriff join Braves camp as instructors
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There was a nostalgic feel in the air on Monday when the Braves welcomed David Justice and Fred McGriff to Spring Training to serve as special instructors over the course of the next week.
"It's always good to come back to any function with the Braves," Justice said. "This is where my heart is. Even though I played with other teams, this is home for me."
As the Braves took the field for Monday's workout, Justice was proudly wearing the Braves uniform again and gladly taking time to reminisce about the game-winning solo homer he hit in the decisive Game 6 of the 1995 World Series.
"When you are done playing, all you have is your memories," Justice said. "People will want to talk about it. I enjoy talking about it. It was a wonderful moment, not only for me and the Braves, but think about the wonderful moment for the fans, too. All of us are all included in that moment."
Chipper Jones seemed to enjoy seeing Justice back in his No. 23 and McGriff once again wearing No. 27 on the back of his Braves uniform. Both of the former players took time to provide some assistance to Jason Heyward, Tyler Pastornicky and any of the players who were willing to pick their brains.
"It's always good to have the alumni back spreading their knowledge," Jones said. "Those guys were the guys who took me under their wing and really gave me so much guidance when I was younger."
With first-base coach Terry Pendleton also in camp, Justice pointed out that the Braves have reunited the core of the lineup that they utilized after McGriff was acquired from the Padres midway through the 104-win, 1993 season.
"We've got Terry Pendleton, me and Freddie," Justice said. "We've got the three, four and five hitters. I'll take on any coaching staff in the 20-mile radius ... for one inning."
Jurrjens happy knee is pain free in camp
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jair Jurrjens has gone through the first week of Spring Training without any restrictions or concerns about his bothersome right knee, which has prevented him from pitching down the stretch each of the past two seasons.
"I can concentrate on pitching without having to worry about my knee," Jurrjens said.
Noted knee specialist Dr. Richard Steadman fitted Jurrjens with a brace that provides stability to his knee and hip. The 26-year-old pitcher has found even greater relief since starting to wear orthotics in his shoes. This step was taken after it was determined some of the extra strain on his knee was a product of a shorter-than-normal joint in his right big toe.
Jurrjens has not yet reached the point where he is worried about how hard he is throwing. He is just enjoying the opportunity to pitch in a pain-free manner again.
"It's a little too early," Jurrjens said. "Usually I don't worry about velocity this early in camp. It's more about getting comfortable on the mound again and working on my pitches."
Hanson feeling 'really strong' after latest workout
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tommy Hanson pushed himself a little harder with some conditioning exercises Monday morning and then visited a local doctor with the hope that he will be cleared to participate in Spring Training workouts with the Braves on Tuesday.
"Everything felt really good," Hanson said. "I felt really strong and no headaches. So I'm good. ... The sooner I get out there, the better. So hopefully, it's [Tuesday]."
Hanson said he had no trouble when he took a concussion-impact exam on Monday. He suffered a Grade 1 concussion when he was involved in a one-car accident on Feb. 20.
"I did good, so no more of those stupid tests," Hanson said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.