WASHINGTON -- Braves second baseman Dan Uggla opened some eyes during Spring Training when he said he had set a goal to strike out fewer than 120 times this season.
Considering Uggla has averaged 162 strikeouts over the past seven seasons, that might be an unrealistic goal. But this season's early results indicate Uggla is at least trending in the right direction.
Uggla entered Sunday's series finale against the Nationals hitting .200 with four strikeouts through his first 20 plate appearances. In addition to the sample size not being big enough from which to draw conclusions, Uggla's batting average is also not indicative of the quality of the plate appearances he recorded during the regular season's first week.
"He's had some great at-bats," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's hitting the ball about as well as anybody on this team."
After running into some tough luck with some balls that were hit directly at opposing defenders, Uggla gained some satisfaction with the decisive two-run, fourth-inning single he hit off Stephen Strasburg during Saturdays night's win at Nationals Park.
Along with giving the Braves a lead they would not squander, the single also gave Uggla more reason to believe breaking balls might not be as problematic as they were last year, when he recorded career lows in batting average (.179) and on-base percentage (.309).
Uggla spent this offseason focusing on keeping his front side much quieter than it had been as he had admittedly become "homer happy" over the past few years.
"I'd have rolled over that [curveball] last year," Uggla said. "When you're head is moving as much as mine was moving, you speed the ball up. You think that you can hit it and it's not a strike, and you're already committed to swinging at it.
"I'm excited about the way things have been going. I just need to be more selective. When you feel good, you want to go up there and hit. But I need to remember to be selective and put the ball in play."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.