6/21/2013 12:40 A.M. ET
Pastornicky eager to establish skills at second
By Mark Bowman and Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- After logging 76 games and nearly 200 plate appearances while starting and ending the 2012 season with the Braves, Tyler Pastornicky came away from his first Major League season knowing he could hit at the highest level of the game. On Thursday, he got another chance to test his progress at his new position in the field, starting at second base for the second time this season.
After entering the big leagues as a shortstop, Pastornicky spent the opening months of the 2013 season adjusting to second base with Triple-A Gwinnett. He had played 52 games at second this year for Gwinnett before being called up on Tuesday, when Evan Gattis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique strain.
"It's definitely different [from last year], with a position change and obviously being in Triple-A," Pastornicky said. "Other than that, I'm just continuing to work and trying to get better, trying to come up here and get established."
Before Thursday's game, Pastornicky pointed out that switching positions as a middle infielder comes with its positives and negatives: While the shorter throw to first base can provide the luxury of time for a former shortstop, Pastornicky has been drilling the all-important double-play turn with Andrelton Simmons to get more comfortable with his new role in that tandem.
"In Spring Training, I think we did it pretty much every day, and every time I've been up here, I come out here and turn them early," Pastornicky said. "Him being a great shortstop makes it about as easy as it can be on you."
Pastronicky also saw his name at the top of the batting order for just the second time in his Major League career on Thursday. The last time he hit leadoff for the big club was May 16, 2012, against the Marlins, and he has occupied the No. 3 spot in the order of late for Gwinnett.
"He gives you some athleticism," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He gives you a guy that can run. He doesn't have [Jordan] Schafer's speed, but he's a little threat, and he can put the ball in play. He's here, he came up, and I'm a big believer in why sit around? Put him in there and get a chance to play with him."
With vision a concern, Uggla gets new contacts
ATLANTA -- When Dan Uggla was told during Spring Training that his vision was being blurred by an astigmatism, he ditched the contact lenses he was given after just a couple days. But after spending the first half of this season ducking out of the way of many curveballs and looking at far too many strikes, he opted to get assistance.
After undergoing a multitude of tests on Thursday afternoon, Uggla was fitted with another set of contact lenses that he hopes will be more comfortable than the set he tried in March. If this does not work, the second baseman might undergo LASIK surgery.
"I just know that I need LASIK or contacts," Uggla said. "So we're going to go with contacts first. They felt great all day, and I'm excited about it. I'm excited about hopefully being able to see the ball better."
Uggla sat out of Thursday's 4-3 loss the Mets. But he believes he will be ready to play when the Braves open a three-game set in Milwaukee on Friday.
"I've always thought I've had pretty good eyes, and I've always had, up until probably late last year," Uggla said. "But it's nothing that's not fixable. So it's better to identify the problem now and get it solved now."
Uggla has traveled a rocky road since the Braves signed him to a five-year, $62 million deal before the start of the 2011 season. The 33-year-old batted .173 during his first 86 games with Atlanta and then proceeded to hit .291 with 34 home runs and a .938 OPS in his next 134 games. But in the 166 games that have followed, he has hit .189 with 22 homers and a .673 OPS.
"I guess now looking back, I kind of noticed it last year," Uggla said. "It was harder to focus, even out in the field. This year I was just trying to battle through it, thinking it's going to come like it always does, not thinking, 'Maybe you're not seeing the ball.'"
Uggla set the franchise record with 156 strikeouts in 2011 and then upped that total with 168 last year. He is currently on pace to strike out more than 201 times this season.
"It's just been building," Uggla said. "I haven't been able to pull the trigger on a lot of the pitches I've made my money on and done a lot of damage on. For me to not be able to even pull the trigger on any of those pitches for this amount of time and to also be ducking out of the way of so many pitches that are strikes, my eyes aren't telling me the right thing. So I've got to do something."
Heyward's celebration tug a growing ritual
ATLANTA -- Braves fans have grown accustomed to seeing Freddie Freeman hug teammates before games and after key moments in games. But many of these fans are still getting used to the new collar-tugging ritual started by Jason Heyward.
When in the field at the end of a victory, the Braves' outfielders converge in center field and simultaneously jump while grabbing the back collar of their jerseys. Heyward has also brought the tradition to the dugout, where he occasionally raises the back of a teammate's jersey after they hit a home run.
But Heyward has also performed this ritual after seeing something goofy, like the Upton brothers colliding in left-center field during the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Mets. Once he saw both were not hurt, Heyward marked the occasion by tugging at the back of his own jersey.
"It's just like Freddie's hugs, it's just goofy," said Heyward, who actually began this ritual during his high school playing days. "We just have fun with it."
Brian McCann actually helped fuel this tradition by laughing whenever he saw Heyward grabbing the back of a teammate's jersey over the course of the past couple seasons.
"Whenever I hit a homer, BMac will start doing it to me," Heyward said. "He said, 'Whenever I hit a homer, you've got to lift me up.' So I do it to him. It's just fun. There's nothing more to it. We see people all around the game do whatever. There's nothing more to it. We're just having fun."
• Right-handed reliever Luis Ayala began his Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett by tossing a scoreless inning in Thursday's win over Buffalo. Ayala has been on the disabled list since being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in late April. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said there is not a definite timetable for Ayala to return to Atlanta's bullpen.
• When the Braves conclude Sunday's series finale in Milwaukee, they will have played 48 games over the course of the previous 50 days. They will then have three off-days during the eight days that follow. Gonzalez said he is not planning to shuffle the rotation. He said he would rather give some of his starters an extra day or two of rest between starts at this point of the season.
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.