By JASON STELLA
Although the season was only a few weeks old back in mid-April, the Louisville Bats already found themselves in need of a steady third baseman to fill the void being left by Todd Frazier, who got an early-season opportunity with the Cincinnati Reds after starting the year in Louisville.
Insert Mike Constanzo, a left-handed hitting third baseman who got off to a torrid start in 2012 with the double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Costanzo got called up to Louisville on April 17 and provided the Bats with such a steady presence at third base that when Scott Rolen went on the shelf this past week with shoulder problems, Costanzo was called up to Cincinnati to don a major league uniform for the first time. During Costanzoâ€™s time in Louisville, he was one of the teamâ€™s most productive players, hitting .291 in 23 games while holding down the hot corner and committing just two errors.
Despite being with the Bats for less than a month, Costanzo provided a welcome spark for the teamâ€™s struggling offense. The former second round draft pick of the Phillies recorded seven multi-hit games and blasted three home runs. Costanzoâ€™s homers in back-to-back games in late April helped the Bats take a pair of victories on the road in Norfolk, and his clutch, game-tying RBI single in the eighth inning a few nights later helped cap a night in which he reached base three times. Costanzo has also been one of the Batsâ€™ biggest weapons against right-handed pitching in 2012, wearing out righties with a .450 on-base percentage.
Costanzo was dialed while starting the season in double-A, having already driven in 13 runs and hitting .333 in 11 games before his promotion. With Frazier having been the Batsâ€™ primary third basemen over the seasonâ€™s first few weeks, it only made sense to give Costanzo a longer look at triple-A, an opportunity he has capitalized on as the team tries to pick itself up in the standings after a slow start.
The 28-year-old Costanzo has spent parts of the past two seasons with Louisville, driving in 26 runs last year in 47 games with the Bats. Costanzoâ€™s time with the Bats was even shorter in 2010 when he appeared in just six games, but he was a double-A all-star that season, which was his first in the Redsâ€™ organization.
With Rolen being on the disabled list for at least a couple weeks, Costanzo will have ample opportunities to help the Reds stay in the NL Central race during his first major league stint. Regardless of how long of a tenure his first major league action winds up being, Costanzo should be able to provide a steady influence at third base and at the plate, whether he is in Cincinnati or Louisville.