Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had said recently he would pick his spots where he might sit struggling second baseman Dan Uggla. But that plan changed as the Braves entered September. Gonzalez told Uggla Saturday he plans to use him only in a part-time role.
Martin Prado will start at second base for the foreseeable future, with Uggla backing him up. Jeff Baker and Tyler Pastornicky will be options as well.
“He just said something like ‘We’ve got to make a change and I don’t know how much playing time you’re going to get for these next 29 games,’” said Uggla, who sat in consecutive games for the first time all season on Monday. “And that was about it.’”
Uggla didn’t like it. He doesn’t like it when Gonzalez gives him a normal day of rest, like he did only twice in the Braves’ first 97 games this season. But Uggla, who has been out of the lineup four times in the past 12 games, has hit only .152 (37-for-243) in his past 73 games. His .208 batting average on the season is worst in the National League among every-day players.
“I understand what my numbers are,” Uggla said. “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’re at right now. Basically numbers don’t mean anything to me, especially in September. But some people don’t see it that way. Do I agree with it? No. But it’s not my call. I don’t make out the lineup. All I can do is pull for my teammates and do what I can when I get an opportunity.”
Uggla voiced his concern to Gonzalez on Saturday, which Gonzalez understood. But the Braves manager said this was a decision he had to make for the team, as uncomfortable as it is.
“It’s not a doghouse situation,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a situation where you feel like you need to do something for the team and for the name on the front of the uniform. And it’s not easy because of the relationship.”
Gonzalez has managed Uggla for six seasons, including the better part of four with Miami, before Uggla was traded to Atlanta and signed a five-year $62 million extension. Uggla said he respected the fact that Gonzalez was up front with him about the change.
“We’re all men in here,” Uggla said. “One of the things about baseball, people kind of (talk) around subjects and try to tiptoe around certain areas of the game. The only thing we can ask for is if somebody is honest with you and straight up.”
Gonzalez didn’t rule out a return to the lineup for Uggla, but it’s clear he would have to earn his way back into an every-day role.
“I wouldn’t call it a permanent thing,” Gonzalez said. “You just never know. But I really feel that the course of this next five weeks, four weeks, he’s going to come up big for us, somewhere down the road.”
When asked how the Braves would handle Uggla’s situation going into next season, Gonzalez said: “Next year is next year. I might not even be around for next year. I don’t even look that far ahead. Worry about next year next year. If we make it in the postseason and we get far and we hoist a trophy or a flag, there’s going to be some mending of fences and mending of relationships, but that’s what we’ve got to do.”