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Schafer preparing for backup role in outfield

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Five years have passed since Jordan Schafer produced an impressive Grapefruit League season that earned him an opportunity to begin the 2009 season as Atlanta's starting center fielder.

Since then, Schafer has battled injuries, endured a miserable stint with the Astros and resuscitated his career, when given a chance to return to Atlanta last year. Now, he's back in Braves camp, preparing to fill a backup role and keeping the confidence that he still has the ability to be an everyday player at the Major League level.

"Obviously, I still have a lot to prove to myself and a lot of people," Schafer said. "I want to play every day. There would be something wrong if I didn't feel that way."

Along with adding some muscle to his frame, Schafer once again spent this offseason working out within eyesight of the Braves Spring Training complex with Tom Shaw, the renowned speed coach whose clientele includes NFL stars and world-class sprinters. In addition, he focused on making the adjustments necessary to prove more successful against left-handed pitchers.

Schafer proved to be a valuable backup outfielder last year as he hit .312 with a .399 on-base percentage in the 146 plate appearances he compiled before suffering a stress fracture, courtesy of a ball he fouled off his right foot June 26. But even during this successful stretch, he recorded just two hits in 16 at-bats against left-handed pitchers.

The Braves are once again targeting Schafer to serve as a versatile backup outfielder, who can provide value with his glove and speed. His value as a pinch-hitter is limited courtesy of the .173 batting average he has compiled in 208 career at-bats against left-handed pitchers.

"He's a guy who is your perfect fourth outfielder," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He can play all three positions way above average. He can run off the bench and pinch-hit. He's a great commodity."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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