CLEARWATER, Fla. – Dan Uggla hit his second home run in as many days during Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Phillies, and hopes his new approach to spring will him help avoid another of his notorious slow starts to the season.
The second baseman is hitting .308 with team-highs of three homers, five extra-base hits and seven RBIs in 26 at-bats.
“The last few years I think I’ve been going about it too passively [in spring training], trying to see pitches instead of getting my timing,” Uggla said, referring to the practice of hitters taking or “tracking” more pitches than usual during spring training.
“You can track as many pitches as you want, but until you swing and you’re making contact it’s really tough to get that timing,” he said. “My 12th year [of pro ball], I finally figured out how to get a better approach in March. It’s weird.”
Diaz ends homer drought
After not hitting a home run during the entire 2011 season with the Pirates and Braves, Matt Diaz ended his drought with a two-out homer in the second inning Thursday against Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton.
“It’s been about 365 days since I got to circle the bases,” said Diaz, who laughed when asked if he remembered his last homer before Thursday. It was last spring training with Pittsburgh.
“Yeah, it was in Bradenton off of [Rays lefty David] Price. I remember the pitch, a 3-1 change-up.
“It’s been a while.”
Diaz was only 4-for-24 with one RBI before Thursday. He credited an adjustment made after some extra work in the batting cage Wednesday with hitting coach Greg Walker and assistant Scott Fletcher. They worked on staying inside the pitch, instead of trying to pull balls to left field.
The right-handed hitting Diaz also lined out to second base off Phillies reliever Chad Qualls to end the game, just after hitting a deep fly ball that sailed foul down the right-field line.
“I was probably more pleased with the line drive to second on a right-handed slider” than the homer, he said. “That ball was a one-hopper to the shortstop all year last year. Staying through the ball, I never could do that last year. I can now because I’m more flexible.”
Diaz lost weight and worked on his flexibility in the offseason after feeling as if his swing was hindered by added upper-body muscle last season.
Friday night lights
The Braves will play their second night game in three days Friday when Houston comes to Champion Stadium for a 6:05 p.m. start. The Braves don’t have another night game on the Grapefruit League schedule until March 30.
Tommy Hanson is scheduled to make his second start of the spring and first official start (his debut Sunday was rained out after one inning). He’ll face Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez.