Uggla impresses Fredi, stays in lineup, delivers

Uggla impresses Fredi, stays in lineup, delivers

Uggla impresses Fredi, stays in lineup, delivers
SAN DIEGO -- When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez constructed his lineup for Tuesday night's matchup against Padres left-hander Andrew Werner, he knew he definitely wanted Reed Johnson to play left field. This created the option to move Martin Prado to second base to spell the struggling Dan Uggla.

Encouraged by some of Uggla's at-bats in Monday night's 3-0 loss, Gonzalez opted to keep his veteran second baseman in the lineup for a second straight. But for the first time in his career, Uggla was positioned in the eighth spot of the lineup.

Gonzalez said Uggla did not complain when he was left out of the starting lineup twice over the course of the past week. The 34-year-old veteran entered Tuesday having batted .145 with five home runs and a .251 slugging percentage in his previous 69 games.

"He's been whatever you want," Gonzalez said. "Here's a guy who has been to the All-Star Game three times and he's got an ego. All good players have egos and feeling. But he has not said anything. That's why you cheer him on so much."

The Braves had some reason to celebrate when Uggla drilled a line-drive home run off Andrew Werner to begin the fifth inning of Tuesday's 2-0 win. It was the 1,000th hit of his career, a milestone celebrated with the bottle of champagne waiting for him after the game in his locker.

This was Uggla's 16th home run of the season. He would need an incredible power surge to hit 30 home runs for a sixth consecutive season.

"I feel fine," Uggla said. "I'm not going to hit .300, and 30 is going to be a stretch. So I'm concentrating on being that kind of player the rest of the way and pulling my weight."

Uggla singled to center during his first at-bat on Monday night and drilled a long fly ball that died at the center-field wall in the eighth inning. In between, he encouraged Gonzalez with an at-bat that concluded with a ho-hum check-swing fly ball to first baseman Jesus Guzman.

Gonzalez was happy to see Uggla track the pitch a little longer than he has with his aggressive approach most of this season.

"To the casual observer, it's just a fly ball to first base," Gonzalez said. "But I haven't seen that from him in a while. They say good hitters are not afraid to get jammed. So the next at-bat, he goes straightaway center and I'm going, 'OK, there's something there.' "

The decision to keep Uggla in the lineup led Gonzalez to give Prado his third start of the season at the shortstop position. This weakened the defense, which has benefited from the reliable defense provided by Paul Janish, who leads all National League shortstops with a .995 fielding percentage since the All-Star break.