As far as debuts go, Tommy La Stella gets an A. Or a Double-A.
The Braves' No. 17 prospect doubled twice, tripled and drove in four runs in his Southern League debut as Mississippi routed Montgomery, 19-2, on Tuesday.
La Stella's night got off to rough start, grounding out in the first inning and flying out in the second. He got on track after that, tripling home a pair in the fourth. Following a flyout in the sixth, the New Jersey native doubled to open the eighth and then plated a pair with another two-bagger that same frame.
"It was great. Any time you go to a new place you want to make a strong first impression," La Stella said. "My first couple of at-bats, I was a little too overeager. Rather than stick with my approach and not swing out of the zone, I was a little too eager to swing. The third, fourth and so on, I was trying to relax and react to what the pitcher was throwing."
La Stella opened the season on the disabled list with an elbow injury. After spending some time in extended spring training, the 24-year-old second baseman joined Class A Advanced Lynchburg, where he hit .550 with a homer and four RBIs in seven games. La Stella received word of his promotion Sunday and made the nine-hour drive to Mississippi.
Following a 2012 season in which he batted .299 in 90 Minor League games, being waylaid by an injury was a tough way to open the year.
"Absolutely you never want to be injured, but it was difficult to start the year on DL," La Stella said. "Everything is healed up and I'm getting my opportunity now, which is all that matters."
Mississippi racked up 19 hits, eight of which went for extra bases, establishing a new club record. Jaime Pedroza slugged a grand slam in the second and Philip Gosselin was 4-for-6 with a double and three runs scored.
"Everybody was swinging the bat tonight, it was a great thing," La Stella said. "Guys were getting on base, taking walks ... any time you got guys getting on base and swinging a hot bat, it's going to be a fun game."
Cody Martin, the Braves' No. 10 prospect, evened his record at 1-1 after allowing two runs on six hits over five innings for Mississippi.