Simmons excited, but focused on task at hand

Simmons excited, but focused on task at hand

Simmons excited, but focused on task at hand
WASHINGTON -- Before Andrelton Simmons strained his left oblique muscle during the latter portion of Spring Training, some members of the Braves organization believed he should make the jump from the Class A Advanced Minor League level to the Major Leagues at the start of the regular season.

Having had the opportunity to spend the past two months gaining more seasoning with Double-A Mississippi, a more prepared Simmons has made the leap to the Majors to begin what could be a long reign as Atlanta's starting shortstop.

"I think if everything goes right and we know what we're seeing, you may see this guy here for a very long time," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

After watching Simmons dazzle with his tremendous defensive skills during Spring Training, Gonzalez was happy to put the young shortstop in his lineup for Friday night's scheduled game against the Nationals. But because the game was postponed by rain, the anticipated debut had to wait at least one more day.

"This is what you're waiting for your whole life," Simmons said. "It's what you worked for the whole time. But still, once you get here, it's not about getting here anymore. It's about performing and staying here and trying to help your team win."

There are a very few questions about Simmons' ability to provide the defensive dependability Tyler Pastornicky did not provide over the season's first two months. But some have doubted his offensive capabilities since the Braves drafted him as a pitcher in the second round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

Simmons convinced the club to allow him to play shortstop, and he eased some doubts about his offense while winning the Carolina League batting title with Class A Advanced Lynchburg last year. Challenged by Double-A pitchers this year, he hit .292 with a .794 OPS in 43 games for Mississippi.

"I knew my weaknesses and that I needed to work on some stuff, like going to the opposite field, staying back, letting the ball get deeper," Simmons said. "I worked on it. The coaches there helped me a lot. I had my ups and downs, but I feel like I'm getting better every day."

When asked in late February about his goals for this season, Simmons displayed his confident smile and said, "What do you think?"

Two months later, while sitting at a steakhouse near Mississippi's Trustman Park on Wednesday night, Simmons received word that he would realize this goal of reaching the big leagues. But before getting too excited, he admits he asked his manager Aaron Holbert to prove he was not playing a joke on him.

"I wasn't thinking about it," Simmons said. "At the beginning of the year, I was trying. But after a couple of games, I was focused on playing at Double-A and getting better and helping the team win. When I was least expecting it, they told me. So it's kind of crazy."