03/24/2013 5:45 PM ET
Uggla experiencing resurgence at the plate
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- Dan Uggla's competitive spirit left him no other choice but to be frustrated by the significant number of times he struck out during the early portion of the exhibition season. But this might have been a blessing in disguise for the Braves' second baseman, who produced career lows in batting average (.220), home runs (19) and slugging percentage (.384) last year.
"I'm glad it happened, because what we were seeing was the same thing as last year," Braves hitting coach Greg Walker said. "Since then, he's really attacked it hard. He's worked as hard as anybody in camp."
With one hit in the two at-bats he recorded in Sunday's rain-shortened 9-3 loss to the Nationals, Uggla improved his Grapefruit League batting average to .224. This is certainly not cause for celebration. But it is also a far cry from where Uggla was when he hitting .130 with 12 strikeouts in 23 at-bats on March 5.
Having worked hard to get his time and weight distribution right, Uggla has recorded five hits -- including a home run -- in his past 12 at-bats. More importantly, he has struck out in just nine of the 44 at-bats he has recorded since enduring that ugly start to the spring season.
"As I've gotten older, the frustration has been easier to handle -- because you know it's just a matter of time before [success] does come," Uggla said.
Windy conditions add to Medlen's recent woes
VIERA, Fla. -- Over the course of the past week, Braves right-hander Kris Medlen has surrendered 14 hits in a five-inning stint and battled the strong winds that existed during Sunday afternoon's rain-shortened 9-3 loss to the Nationals.
Count him among the many Major Leaguers who are anxiously anticipating next week's arrival of the regular season.
"You go up in the middle of your delivery, and the first thing in the back of your head is, 'Am I going to fall over?'" Medlen said in reference to Sunday's windy conditions. "Overall, it was just an uncomfortable day. I wouldn't say it was the worst, because I think the last one was probably the worst."
Six days after allowing the Phillies nine runs and 14 hits in five innings, Medlen allowed the Nationals six runs and eight hits in another five-inning outing. These are not the results expected from a pitcher who posted a 0.97 ERA in 13 starts last year. But the 30-mph winds that existed Sunday provided an unwelcome element that will also be unexpected when the regular season begins.
"I gave up nine runs and 14 hits [on Monday], and I felt way more comfortable than I did today," Medlen said. "I felt a couple balls today could have been caught during the regular season."
Medlen's latest frustrating outing began with Denard Span hitting a lazy fly ball that the wind knocked down in front of Jason Heyward in right field. Two innings later, Danny Espinosa hit a two-out line drive that initially seemed destined to land in left fielder Justin Upton's glove shy of the warning track. But the ball carried over the fence for a three-run home run.
"When I needed to make a pitch, I probably did that 50 percent of the time," Medlen said. "I jammed some guys and got some ground balls. A couple snuck through. It's just one of those outings that I'm ready to forget. I'm so ready for the regular season."
Medlen's final regular-season tuneup will come on Friday, when he pitches in a Minor League game at the Braves' Spring Training complex. As he goes through that outing, which will consist of at least four innings, the 27-year-old right-hander will attempt to gain more consistency with his two-seam fastball. It has stayed out over the plate more than he would like during his past two outings.
Just four of the 22 hits Medlen has surrendered in his past 10 innings have been of the extra-base variety. Many of the 18 singles he's allowed during this span have been ground balls that have snuck through the infield.
"You're going to pitches that you normally go to during the year, that you normally make -- and they're just not there yet," Medlen said. "For me, they'll come. I'm not worried or anything. It's something I've done my entire life -- figure out my delivery and figure out my pitches."
Gilmartin, Obispo sent to Minor League camp
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Left-handed pitcher Sean Gilmartin arrived at Spring Training with the realization that he would likely begin this upcoming season at the Minor League level. Now, Gilmartin will prepare to pitch for Triple-A Gwinnett with the understanding that a promotion to the Majors could be just a phone call away.
The Braves re-assigned Gilmartin and right-handed reliever Wirfin Obispo to Minor League camp on Sunday morning.
Gilmartin, who was selected in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and is No. 5 on the Braves' Top 20 Prospects list according to MLB.com, surrendered 22 hits and allowed 11 earned runs in the 13 innings he compiled during his four Grapefruit League starts. The 22-year-old southpaw produced a 3.84 ERA in 27 combined starts with Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett last year.
"I don't know how much more work he needs," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I like him. He gives us a little depth in Triple-A in case something happens up here. You love everything about him. His work ethic and the way he goes about his business is off the chart."
Gilmartin currently stands as the top candidate to be promoted to Atlanta if the Braves need a starting pitcher. But once other teams make roster decisions this week, the Braves are expected to attempt to acquire a more experienced pitcher who would provide depth in Gwinnett's rotation and serve as a better option if a starting pitcher is needed in Atlanta.
Obispo caught the attention of the Braves' coaching staff, as he surrendered one hit and worked four scoreless innings in five Grapefruit League appearances. The 28-year-old right-hander pitched four seasons in Japan before producing a 3.00 ERA in 30 combined appearances (13 starts) for the Reds at the Double-A and Triple-A Minor League levels last year.
"I thought Obispo was very interesting," Gonzalez said. "We're just running out of innings. He's funky and he's got good stuff."
• Brian McCann will begin playing with restrictions in Minor League games on Tuesday. McCann, who is expected to miss most of April while recovering from right shoulder surgery, will serve as a designated hitter and avoid any impact by being replaced by a pinch runner at first base on any hit that is not a home run.
He will not be cleared to serve as a catcher in a game before April 16.
• Jonny Venters felt good during a one-inning appearance in a Minor League game on Saturday. It was his first appearance in a game since March 13. The Braves gave the left-handed reliever an extended rest in attempt to avoid the fatigue he experienced early last year.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.