Right on cue, second baseman Dan Uggla returned to the Braves lineup Wednesday night on the first day he was eligible to come off the disabled list. He was eager to get back in action coming off his Aug. 16 laser eye surgery.
“I feel great,” Uggla said Wednesday afternoon. “I feel confident with everything. I’m just happy to be back and finishing this thing out.”
Uggla took confidence from the final game of his injury rehabilitation assignment Tuesday night in Triple-A Gwinnett, when he went 2-for-4 with a home run.
“It’s been awhile since I hit two balls hard in a game – or two balls hard in a week for that matter,” said Uggla, who is hitting .186 this season. “It was very nice to know that that is still possible. For the most part, I was just going down to see some pitches and try to put some good swings on the ball. I ended up getting a couple hits and that was cool.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said despite expectations that this will be an overnight fix, he knows it might take Uggla a while to get his timing back.
“We’ve got to have a little patience,” Gonzalez said. “But I think he’s comfortable and from talking to him when he was with us taking bp (during the road trip), I think he’ll be fine.”
Uggla said the more live pitching he saw in those two games in Gwinnett, the better he felt.
“I was a lot more confident in the box and just that alone is more than half the battle,” Uggla said. “Actually being able to see the ball and as I got more at-bats and was seeing more pitches, every at-bat felt that much better.”
The Braves optioned outfielder Todd Cunningham back to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for Uggla on the roster. Cunningham will be eligible to return to Atlanta on Tuesday, before the normally requisite 10 days are up, because Gwinnett’s season ends on Monday. Major league rosters expand on Sunday, Sept. 1.
Gonzalez told Cunningham that he keeps getting promotions because he’s earned the trust of the major league coaching staff.
“We trust him that he’s going to be ready to play defense, he throws to the right base every time,” Gonzalez said. “He’s a good baseball player. That’s a good trait to have when you’re a young player and you keep coming back and forth. We know what we’re going to get from Todd Cunningham when he joins us here with the club.”
Gonzalez said the Braves haven’t finalized their list of September call-ups but that it would be a small number. That group of about a handful is likely to include outfielder Jose Constanza and right-hander Freddy Garcia. Tyler Greene and Phil Gosselin are other possibilities.
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