Braves 2B Uggla intent of better start in 2012
When Dan Uggla arrived for spring training with the Atlanta
Braves, he felt at home.
The layout of the clubhouse was just as he remembered it. He
knew where to find his locker. All the guys seemed like old
”It’s a more comfortable feeling,” Uggla said, pulling on his
uniform. ”I know where my place is on this team. I already know
everybody respects me as a ballplayer, the way I go about my
”It’s not like I’m trying to set the stage for something. It’s
already out there.”
The Braves can only hope that Uggla’s familiarity leads to a
much better start in 2012.
A year ago, after being acquired from the Marlins and signed to
a five-year, $62 million contract, Uggla pressed to make a good
first impression on his new team – and wound up making a mess of
the first half of the season.
He’d always been a slow starter anyway, but this was ridiculous.
By the Fourth of July, the Mendoza Line was some faraway fantasy
for the slugging infielder. Uggla’s average was a puny .173 –
downright embarrassing for any player, must less one of his
The next day, he started a hitting streak that lasted 33 games –
the longest in Atlanta history. Of course, after putting himself in
such a deep hole, Uggla was only able to raise his average to .233
by the end of the season. Still, he turned in a
more-than-respectable year, considering how it began, leading the
Braves with 36 homers and 82 RBIs, while extending his streak of
30-homer seasons to five in a row.
No other second baseman in baseball history has more than
Still, there’s the matter of that hideous slump.
”What I went through last year, it’s hard to put a finger on
it,” Uggla said. ”I guess somebody wanted me to struggle for
three months. Maybe they were testing my character. Who knows?
That’s just the way it went down. Who’s to say why or how or what
Actually, he’s just a player who doesn’t want to make
It’s clear he put too much pressure on himself coming to a new
team. He knew the Braves expected big production in the middle of
their lineup. That’s why they made the trade. That’s why they
forked over that huge contract.
Uggla – who struggled mightily just to make it to the big
leagues – was determined to show everyone he wasn’t going to work
any less. Heck, he would work even harder. Then, when the outs
piled up, he pressed even harder. Before he knew it, Uggla’s season
had all the makings of a total bust.
”I would’ve loved to have hit 20 homers in April,” he said.
”For it to go the opposite way, it was one of those things I had
to battle through. But yeah, of course, there’s added pressure.
It’s just there. It’s automatically gonna be there. Whether you put
it on yourself or you don’t, it’s there. Because it’s a new team, a
new contract. But I’m not saying that’s why I (stunk) for the first
half. Because there’s gonna be pressure every year. In this game,
there’s always pressure.”
At least he never quit.
”We’ve all been up against adversity before, in some way, shape
or form,” Uggla said. ”As long as I did it the right way and
poured everything I had into trying to help my team win throughout
the season, then I would be able to look myself in the
Now, he’s ready to show everyone the real Dan Uggla – not just
the half-season model.
”I’m excited. I feel more confident coming into this year, just
from the simple fact I’ve already done it before,” he said. ”I’ve
prepared my body as good as I can prepare it. I’m ready to go. I
feel great. My swing feels good. My timing obviously feels better.
All the way around, it’s a more comfortable, more convenient
feeling coming into this year.”
Greg Walker, the Braves’ new hitting coach, isn’t concerned
about Uggla going through another extended slump.
He’s been too good for too long.
”There’s a lot of great numbers on the back of his baseball
card,” Walker said. ”I’ve just got to find out what he does that
makes him successful. I’m going to watch every swing this spring
and tell him what I think, but I’m going to let him be Dan Uggla.
I’m not going to try to change him.”
Manager Fredi Gonzalez knows Uggla is unlikely to ever win a
batting title. Not the way he swings at every pitch like it’s his
last. But the skipper is certainly counting on Uggla to improve on
last year’s average.
”I think he’ll pick up right where he left off at the end of
last year,” Gonzalez said. ”He’ll be a guy who hits .280, .290
with 30 homers and 90 RBIs. That’s fine. I expect him to be that
type of guy all year.”
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