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Gonzalez removes Uggla from starting role

Gonzalez removes Uggla from starting role

Gonzalez removes Uggla from starting role
ATLANTA -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez remained patient with Dan Uggla over the course of the past three months. But before Sunday night's win over the Phillies, he informed Uggla that he was removing him from his role as the team's everyday second baseman.

Gonzalez plans to utilize Martin Prado as his starting second baseman over the next few weeks. This creates the likelihood that the right-handed-hitting Reed Johnson and left-handed-hitting Jose Constanza will form a platoon in left field.

"It's not a doghouse situation," Gonzalez said. "It's a situation where you feel you have to do something for the team."

Though Uggla has recorded a hit in each of the past five games and tallied a pair of home runs during this span, he provided the team plenty of reason to contemplate making a change. He has batted .152 with a .276 slugging percentage in the 73 games he has played dating back to June 6. His batting average ranks last and his slugging percentage ranks second to last among all qualified Major Leaguers during this span.

"I understand what my numbers are. I'm not blind to any of that, but at the same time, I'm part of the team that got us to where we are now," Uggla said. "Numbers do not mean anything to me in September. Some people don't see it that way. Do I agree with it? No. But it's not my call. All I can do is pull for my teammates and do what I can when I get an opportunity."

This was the message Uggla conveyed as he vociferously voiced his opinion while meeting with Gonzalez on Sunday afternoon.

"He didn't really explain anything to me. He just said we need to make a change and I do not know how much playing time you are going to get [the rest of the season]."

Uggla struggled through the first three months of the 2010 season before producing an unexpected 33-game hitting streak that energized him during the season's second half. In his first 55 games this year, he batted .276 with 10 home runs and an .876 OPS.

Despite all of his struggles, Uggla still leads the National League with 80 walks, and his 17 home runs rank fourth on the team. But the Braves were obviously looking for much more when they signed him to a five-year, $62 million contract before the start of the 2011 season.

Gonzalez admitted this decision was made more difficult by the fact that he and Uggla have spent so much time together over the past six seasons. They also shared a manager-player relationship while together with the Marlins from 2007-10.

"I think he took it the right way," Gonzalez said. "Obviously, it's uncomfortable and it's hard, especially with the relationship I have with him. You want your players to be upset if they are not in there. But knowing him going through September, he's either going to have a big at-bat when he pinch-hits, or we're going to put him in a game and he's going to have a big game that gets us to the postseason."

Along with being told he would not be in the lineup, Uggla was called back to the dugout after going to the on-deck circle to prepare for a pinch-hit appearance on Sunday night. The decision to go instead with Lyle Overbay was made when the Phillies brought in right-handed closer Jonathan Papelbon.

When Uggla returned to the dugout, he walked to the middle of the dugout before going down the stairs. This seemed to be an attempt to avoid passing Gonzalez in the front of the dugout.

"I'm going to compete to the best of my ability when I get in there," Uggla said. "This is new to me. We'll just take it step by step."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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