Posted: 5:50 pm Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
By David O'Brien
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Braves second baseman Dan Uggla didn’t care about spring training results for most of his career, he said, because he could always count on hitting about 30 homers and driving in 90-plus runs during the season regardless.
But after struggling mightily for two seasons, he wanted to have a good spring this year and take some momentum into the season.
The past two days have been just what he had in mind. Uggla homered against the Phillies for the second consecutive game Tuesday, a fifth-inning leadoff shot against right-hander Sean O’Sullivan to drive in the first run of a 9-1 Braves win at Champion Stadium.
Uggla went 2-for-3 to raise his spring average to .318 (7-for-22) with two homers, seven RBIs, six walks, eight strikeouts and a .448 on-base percentage and .591 slugging percentage. A year ago, he went 15-for-75 (.200) in spring training with two extra-base hits (both homers), six RBIs, three walks, 25 strikeouts and a .548 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 26 games.
“This year, it’s nice to have some results,” he said. “I’m still adjusting to live pitching and everything, just like everybody is. Like I say, I’m not putting too much emphasis on spring training. But the way I feel and the way I’m attacking the ball and having solid at-bats, it’s different than years past. I’m not just going through the motions. I’m working on stuff.”
Heyward sizzling: After going 2-for-2 with a walk Tuesday, Braves leadoff man Jason Heyward has eight hits (including two homers) in his past 11 at-bats and a .379 average (11-for-29) and team-high three homers for the spring.
Heyward led off the sixth inning with a single and third-base prospect Edward Salcedo followed with a two-run homer to get things rolling in a five-run inning that also included a two-run triple for Jordan Schafer.
The Phillies didn’t have a hit until Kevin Frandsen’s RBI single in the seventh inning off Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who also walked two batters in the inning.
Starting-pitcher health updates:
– Mike Minor, who was shut down for about a week due to shoulder soreness at the beginning of camp, has thrown three bullpen sessions in the past week but still hasn’t faced hitters in batting practice. He could pitch in in his first game within a week, but it’s uncertain if he’ll have enough time to be ready to pitch in the regular season by April 12, when the Braves will need a fifth starter. They can get by with four until then because of off days in the early schedule.
– Brandon Beachy was to have further tests performed after lasting only two innings Monday due to biceps tightness, but the Braves and the pitcher agree that the tightness and inflammation is probably just routine-type side effects of coming back from surgery. He had an arthroscopic procedure in September, his second elbow surgery in 15 months.
– Gavin Floyd, progressing smoothly in the final stages of his rehabilitation from May 2013 Tommy John surgery, has looked sharp facing hitters in batting practice and could pitch in a minor league spring training game in the next couple of weeks. The Braves think he could be ready to join the rotation by early May.
Etc. The Braves will keep lineup regulars Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla back at Disney for Wednesday’s split-squad game against the Nationals, along with Ryan Doumit, Gerald Laird and starting pitcher Alex Wood. The rest of the lineup regulars will travel to Jupiter to face the Marlins on Wednesday (with Yunesky Maya getting the start) and the Cardinals on Thursday. It’s the only overnight trip of the spring for the Braves.