Braves' Simmons settling in at plate

Shortstop prospect recovers from rocky start, plates four runs

By Sam Dykstra / Special to | April 22, 2012 6:35 PM ET

Andrelton Simmons was trying too hard. At least that's what his coaches were telling him.

Heading into Sunday,'s No. 64 prospect was hitting .234 (11-for-47) with one extra-base hit and one RBI in his first 11 games for Double-A Mississippi. Over his last five games, he was 2-for-21.

A more relaxed approach at the plate helped Simmons pick up two hits and drive in four runs as the Braves beat the Birmingham Barons, 5-2, in 10 innings.

Two of those RBIs came in the top of the 10th when Simmons singled home Barrett Kleinknecht and Todd Cunningham. His two-run double in the sixth lifted Mississippi into a 2-2 tie.

"I was trying to slow the game down out there today," Simmons said. "I felt uncomfortable at the plate the last couple games, so I talked to the coaches and they just told me to simplify the game, to be myself again up there. That seemed to help today."

The early-season struggles of the Braves' No. 3 prospect's after a year in which he hit a Carolina League-leading .311 with 52 RBIs in 131 games for Class A Advanced Lynchburg. Simmons hit just one homer, but his 35 doubles and six triples ranked second and fifth, respectively.

A self-described "base-hit hitter," the 22-year-old shortstop has climbed the prospect rankings, thanks to his prowess with the glove. At Spring Training, he battled with Braves' No. 7 prospect Tyler Pastornicky for the Major League starting job. The competition stretched into the final week of March before the Braves announced they were going with Pastornicky and assigning Simmons to Double-A.

The Curacao native, who was taken in the second round of the 2010 Draft as a pitcher, acknowledged the demotion was expected. His time in camp was a learning experience as he spent more than a month among big leaguers.

"It opened my eyes to the differences between Minor League and Major League pitching," Simmons said. "The pitchers are smarter up there. If they see you jump on a fastball, maybe they'll tease you with a fastball inside or throw something off-speed to throw you off. They adjust much better than the Minor League guys. It was nice to get a taste for how it works up there and, hopefully, that's something I can take along with me this year."

Braves No. 6 prospect Sean Gilmartin lasted a season-high eight innings and allowed two runs on six hits for his third quality start in four outings. Andrew Russell (1-0) struck out the only batter he faced for the win and Mark Lamm tossed his sixth consecutive scoreless frame in the 10th for his third save.

Cunningham, Atlanta's No. 17 prospect, went 3-for-5 out of the leadoff spot.

Simon Castro, the White Sox's No. 8 prospect, also went eight innings and gave up two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out six for the Barons. No. 9 prospect Tyler Saladino went 2-for-5 and was the only Birmingham player with a multi-hit effort.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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