Dan Uggla needed a fresh start. The San Francisco Giants needed a healthy second baseman who could step in and produce.
Both are hoping they can solve each other’s problem.
A week after being released by the Atlanta Braves and just days after signing a minor league deal with San Francisco, the Giants purchased Uggla’s contract from Triple-A Fresno. They put him in the starting lineup for the opener of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.
”I know what I bring to a clubhouse. I know what I can bring on the field, and I’m just looking forward to going out there and having fun with the guys,” Uggla said after slipping into his newly stitched No. 22 Giants uniform. ”No added pressure here on my end. I’ve been in some dark places and battled my own struggles the last year and a half. But that’s over now. I’m here to have fun.”
The Giants have had little production from their second basemen this season.
Marco Scutaro and Ehire Adrianza were placed on the 15-day disabled list before the game. Scutaro’s strained lower back has kept him out for all but five games this season – though the Giants are still hopeful he can come back – and Adrianza has a strained right hamstring that is considered minor.
As a result, the Giants signed Uggla to a minor league deal Monday. They also designated left-handed pitcher Jose De Paula and infielder Nick Noonan for assignment Friday to make room for Uggla and infielder Tony Abreu, who was also called up from Triple-A.
Uggla went 2 for 7 with two walks and an RBI in two games for Fresno.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy had hoped Uggla could play more in the minors before calling him up. The latest round of injuries just didn’t allow it.
Bochy said he’s hoping Uggla can pull off a turnaround similar to the kind Pat Burrell and Jeff Francoeur did after signing with San Francisco in the middle of recent seasons.
”Sometimes change is good,” Bochy said. ”We like taking a look at players who have a track record, and he has an outstanding track record. You look for them to be available, and really, the timing was perfect for us.”
Uggla will cost the Giants only $500,000. The Braves are responsible for the $18 million he’s guaranteed over the rest of this season and next season.
The 34-year-old second baseman has 233 career homers and a .244 average. He had five straight 30-homer seasons for the Marlins and Braves from 2007-11 and has made three NL All-Star teams.
But since 2012, Uggla has hit just .196 with 43 homers and 143 RBIs in 1,101 at-bats. He said he’s working on ”staying short” in his swing instead of trying to hit home runs.
”We’re human. We’re going to fall out of whack sometimes,” Uggla said. ”We have to get ourselves back into the right places some way or another. And for me, that’s just trying to get the barrel to the ball and staying as short as I can.”
More than anything, Uggla is excited for another opportunity in the majors.
He has some familiarity with his new teammates, playing with pitchers Tim Hudson in Atlanta and Yusmeiro Petit with the Marlins, but otherwise the Giants offer a clean slate.
Uggla said he was excited to play in front of the nightly sellouts at AT&T Park. He compared the feelings before his debut with San Francisco to opening day.
”Anytime you do have an opening day or a first game, that’s kind of similar to the butterflies you get on opening day. It’s a fresh start,” he said. ”I’m excited about it. I got all the right nerves going, the anxious, excited-ness going. I’m looking forward to getting it going.”