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 Costanzo’s time in Louisville, he was one of the team’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 team’s struggling offense. The former second round draft pick of the Phillies recorded seven multi-hit games and blasted three home runs. Costanzo’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 Bats’ 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 Bats’ primary third basemen over the season’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. Costanzo’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 Reds’ 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.