LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. – For all the uncertainty surrounding center fielder Nate McLouth this spring, one thing was clear Monday. He got just the kind of game he needed to jumpstart his spring training.
McLouth went 2-for-2 with a double, two RBIs, two walks, three runs and a stolen base to lead the Braves to a 13-3 win over the Astros. It set the tone for a big offensive day for the Braves, including two doubles from Eric Hinske, Dan Uggla’s first hit as a Brave, and a six-run second inning fueled by two Brian McCann hits.
In the Braves’ first win of spring training, McLouth got his first hit of spring on a flare to left center off left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.
“My first hit was a bloop hit, but at least it didn’t take me nine games to get it,” McLouth said.
McLouth has reached base as many times in the first two games and he did in much of spring training last year. He’s been on base six times in his first two games, including a walk and hit by pitch on Saturday in Port St. Lucie. He went 6-for-51 (.118) last spring training with 16 strikeouts.
This is a pivotal time for McLouth to build confidence if he’s to rebound from last season when he hit .190 in 85 games and lost his center field job for much of the second half. Seeing early results doesn’t hurt.
“I’m really going up to the plate trying to be aggressive, and be aggressive on every pitch,” McLouth said. “It’s amazing how much better you see offspeed pitches, when you’re really, really aggressive on the fastball.”
The left-handed hitting McLouth got a base hit and two walks off left-handers Monday. He doubled to the opposite field gap off the only right-hander he faced.
“When I’m seeing lefties well, I’m laying off close pitches and swinging at good pitches,” he said. “That’s how I can gauge my progress at the plate.”