LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – When Dan Uggla hit .200 with two extra-base hits and 25 strikeouts in 75 at-bats at spring training a year ago, it set the tone for a career-worst season for the Braves second baseman.
He knows not to make too much of one game in late February, but Uggla went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles in four innings of work Wednesday during a Grapefruit League-opening 5-4 loss to the Tigers.
“Good day today,” Uggla said. “The most encouraging thing? Just that I feel like me again. It’s Day 1. I’m going to have to keep working. I’ve got a long way to go. But it’s encouraging to be going in the direction I’m going, and feel the way I feel. I’m excited where I’m at and looking to build on this.”
Uggla posted career worsts last season in batting average (.179), on-base percentage (.309) and slugging percentage (.362), and matched his career high with a franchise-record 171 strikeouts in 448 at-bats. He had LASIK surgery in late August in hopes it would help him get back on track before the playoffs, but Uggla was left off the Braves’ postseason roster.
He now wishes he’d waited to get the LASIK surgery after the season, and Uggla said the eyes weren’t as much a problem last season as were the bad habits he slipped into with what he called the foundation of his swing, his legs. He also believes weight loss before last season had a lot to do with his struggles, so this winter he gained it back.
“I’ve been working really hard,” he said. “It’s always fun to gauge where you’re at and how your offseason workouts paid off and all that kind of stuff…. I just put some weight back on and I feel great, man. I felt great last year (at this time), too. But I feel great now, and I feel a long stronger than I think I was at this time last year. When you have 10, 15 more pounds, you’re going to have more muscle mass.”
Uggla had a two-out single in the second inning to drive in the game’s first run, after Chris Johnson lined a double down the left-field line. In the fourth inning, Uggla hit a sharp one-hop single that skipped off the third baseman’s glove, then left for a pinch-runner.
“Danny had a couple of good at-bats,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
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