5/31/2013 8:42 P.M. ET
Fredi will need to get B.J. back in lineup soon
By Mark Bowman and Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- The Braves have limited B.J. Upton's playing time over the past week with the hope that he would benefit from the chance to decompress and fix some mechanical flaws. But on Friday afternoon, manager Fredi Gonzalez said that he will need to get Upton back in the lineup soon.
"I'm a believer that to get out of the funk, you have to play," Gonzalez said. "There's not a magic number or anything like that. The thing you feel good about is, the guy works hard. I think if you spend too much time not playing, when you put him in there, it might be even worse, because all of a sudden, he hasn't seen live pitching."
Including Friday night's series opener against the Nationals, Upton has been out of the starting lineup in five of the last seven games the Braves have played.
"He understands to a certain point," Gonzalez said. "Good players want to play. We've had conversations. He's making the adjustments."
Although they understand that Upton has proven to be streaky, the Braves did not envision this two-month slump when they signed the 28-year-old center fielder to a franchise-record five-year, $75.25 million contract in November.
Upton has hit .146 with four home runs and a .478 OPS through his first 45 games with Atlanta. Entering Friday, his batting average and OPS ranked last among all qualified Major Leaguers.
The Braves are hoping that Upton experiences an abrupt awakening similar to the one he did last year, when he hit .242 with 10 homers through his first 96 games and .254 with 18 home runs in the 50 that followed.
Gonzalez admitted that he has at least wondered whether it would be beneficial for Upton to fix his swing in the stress-free Minor League environment for a week or two, but he said the club has not had any discussions whatsoever regarding this highly unlikely transaction, which would need mutual consent.
Uggla acknowledges that K's are a concern
ATLANTA -- Dan Uggla set the franchise record for strikeouts in each of his first two seasons with the Braves. Through the first two months of this, his third year with Atlanta, he is striking out more frequently than he did during those record-setting campaigns.
Uggla entered Friday's series opener against the Nationals hitting .186 with 10 home runs and the National League's second-highest strikeout total (66). The 33-year-old second baseman is on pace to record 201 strikeouts, which would be 34 more than the franchise record he set in 2012.
"I'm striking out way too much," Uggla said. "That doesn't sit well with me. Obviously, if you cut those strikeouts in half, I probably raise my average 40 points and hit a couple more homers. That adjustment has to be made, and I'm going to make it."
Uggla has struck out once every 2.97 plate appearances, a number that is even more alarming when you consider he struck out once every 3.75 plate appearances last year and once every 4.31 plate appearances the year before.
Through his first 22 games this season, he batted .160 with four home runs and a .625 OPS. In the 26 games that followed, he batted .207 with six home runs and a .765 OPS.
"I throw numbers out the window," he said. "I know where my average is, and it [stinks]. I understand. It is what it is. I can only keep going in the direction I know how to keep going."
Playing time for Laird hard to come by
ATLANTA -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez has spent the past couple of weeks talking about how challenging it would be to find Evan Gattis playing time. But now that Gattis has essentially forced Gonzalez to put him in the lineup as frequently as possible, there is reason to wonder when Gerald Laird will play.
Laird has served as Julio Teheran's primary catcher throughout most of this season, but when Teheran started Friday night's game against the Nationals, Brian McCann was behind the plate, and Gattis was in left field.
Gonzalez explained the decision by simply saying it was more important to have McCann and Gattis in the same lineup rather than Laird's veteran presence behind the plate with the young Teheran on the mound.
Although Laird could certainly continue to get spot starts, his best value to the team might rest in the fact that his presence at least gives Gonzalez more comfort to pinch-hit McCann or Gattis on days they are not in the starting lineup.
Gattis entered Friday having hit .285 with 12 home runs and a .961 OPS through the first 42 games of his career. The 26-year-old rookie made his second consecutive start in left field on Friday night and will now likely serve as McCann's primary backup.
"You need to put that bat in the lineup," Gonzalez said. "That's what we've got to look at -- How do we get that big donkey in the lineup? I wish he could play third or first or shortstop or whatever. Go over to the American League [so Gattis can serve as a designated hitter]. Could we petition that?"
Exhibits put Civil Rights Movement on display
ATLANTA -- Turner Field patrons were treated to a pair of exhibits commemorating the Tuskegee Airmen and the Negro Leagues era as part of the Braves' inaugural Heritage Weekend festivities taking place throughout the three-game series against the Nationals.
The Negro Leagues exhibit offered fans a chance to read about the barnstorming tours and rival leagues that helped increase the popularity of the game among African-Americans from the 1920s to the 1960s. Held in Turner Field's Hank Aaron Room, the exhibit featured photographs and lists of the Negro League players who went on to earn individual accolades and induction into the Hall of Fame following the integration of the game, which began in 1947 following the Dodgers' famous acquisition of Jackie Robinson.
Next to Turner Field's Monument Grove, outside the stadium, the "Rise Above" exhibit featured a 30-minute documentary about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen and their connection with the Commemorative Air Force.
Three living airmen were honored durnig a pregame ceremony that was followed by a flyover of one of the P-51 planes used by the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. The flyover was performed by Delta pilot Brad Lang, the son of one of the original Tuskegee Airmen.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.