Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez concedes when he scans box scores every morning, the first one he checks out is the Braves’ upcoming opponent, and the second is his former Marlins.
It got simple the past few days. The Braves open a three-game series against the team he managed for 3 ½ years on Tuesday.
This series has the potential to be a little awkward for Gonzalez and Braves second baseman Dan Uggla. Gonzalez was fired by the Marlins last June, before getting hired in October to replace longtime Braves manager Bobby Cox. A few weeks later the Marlins traded Uggla to the Braves.
“It’s a situation that happens,” said Gonzalez, who was born in Cuba and raised in Miami, where he lived for 40 years of his life. “There’re no really hard feelings. Go forward.”
If anything, he gets a twinge of nostalgia following the progress of some of the young Marlins players who came up while he was managing, like Mike Stanton, Chris Coghlan, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Volstad and on and on.
“It seems like that first or second year we were throwing out balls every day, like first major league hit for so-and-so,” said Gonzalez, who went 276-279 as Marlins manager. “Those are things that were special. I feel like I was always handing a lineup card out.”
Now he’s using what he knows about those players to help out in scouting meetings.
“I think I’m going to get put under the gun with (pitching coach) Roger (McDowell) to see how much I know about these guys, how to pitch to them,” Gonzalez said.
The Braves faced the Marlins twice in spring training, so that lets some of the air out of this matchup. Then again, the stakes were low in March.
For Uggla, who spent five years as a middle-of-the-lineup hitter for Florida, it’ll be a chance to face his former teammates Chris Volstad, Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco, the slated Marlins starters in the series.
“You definitely want to win against your old team,” Uggla said. “They’re going to want to do the same. There’s definitely going to be a little extra energy.”
Uggla’s negotiations with the Marlins for a long-term extension broke down after he turned down a four-year $48 million offer. The Braves traded for him and signed him to a five-year $62 million extension, giving him the highest average yearly salary for any second baseman.
Uggla said his role in the Braves clubhouse has been much different than his time with the Marlins.
“It’s a lot younger team over there,” Uggla said. “I was kind of a veteran. I’m by far not a veteran over here. I’m going to guys like (Brian) McCann and (David) Ross and Chipper (Jones) for advice, the guys that have been around here. I think that’s a cool thing.”