The Braves plan to open the season with Dan Uggla at second base, and he’s showing signs of progress early in spring training with four RBIs in his first three games, but second baseman Tommy La Stella has been busy planting some seeds.
The 25-year-old prospect went 3-for-6 against the Nationals on Saturday afternoon with a pair of doubles and three runs scored. He is hitting 5-for-11 (.455) so far in three games in his first spring training in major league camp.
The left-handed hitting La Stella doubled to center in his first at-bat Saturday against left-hander Matt Purke, just further evidence that the kid “is just a hitter,” as those who’ve watched him progress up the minor league ladder have said.
“He swings it, and our reports say that’s what he does,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He can swing and make contact and put the ball in play, a gap-type hitter. And today he showed that.”
La Stella is playing like he wants major league time this season, and if he keeps this up, he’ll get it. But he said his attitude this spring has not been built around showing Braves coaches and staff what he can do.
“It’s not about showing; it’s about improving every day,” La Stella said. “…It’s a tremendous opportunity, not only for me to be here and get my work in but also to learn from these guys who had a ton of experience up here.”
The New Jersey native and former eighth round draft pick out of Coastal Carolina is a career .327 hitter. Last year he hit .356 with 22 doubles and 45 RBIs in 88 games combined between Lynchburg (high Single-A) and Mississippi (Double-A).
Uggla, meanwhile, went 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI single on Saturday. He struck out on three pitches against starter Jordan Zimmermann, his first unproductive out of spring, but he recovered to draw a walk in his next trip to the plate. Uggla singled to drive in his fourth run of the spring, second via RBI hit.
It’s hard to make much sense out Saturday’s 16-15 loss, which dropped the Braves to 0-4 this spring training. But the 11 walks by Braves pitchers were a good place to start in the near four-hour marathon. The Braves blew leads of 5-2 and 14-6 after a walk-fest by middle relievers Mark Lamm (three), Juan Jaime (two) and Wirfin Obispo (four).
“We’ve got to get our guys to get the hamster back on the wheel and throw the ball over the plate a little bit,” Gonzalez said.
Among the positives, La Stella, Jordan Schafer and Matt Lipka each had three hits as the Braves rolled up 25 on the day. Lipka went 3-for-6, drove in four runs and stole a base. Regulars Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson each had RBI doubles.
Justin Upton is hoping to get his first action of spring training on Sunday, traveling with the portion of the Braves roster headed to play the Astros in Kissimmee in a split-squad game.
Upton was scratched from the Braves Grapefruit League opener Wednesday with a sore muscle in his right side. Gonzalez said he saw Upton Saturday morning before the Braves left for Viera, and Upton was optimistic he would be ready after missing the first four games.
“He feels good,” Gonzalez said. “So I’m hoping (Sunday) get him in there for a couple at-bats.”
The Braves also host the Tigers at Disney. Alex Wood is scheduled to start for the Braves in Disney and David Hale against the Astros in Kissimmee.
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