3/17/2014 4:57 P.M. ET
Triple to right an encouraging sign for Uggla
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Braves second baseman Dan Uggla homered in the second inning of Monday's rain-shortened 4-0 win over the Astros. But it was the opposite-field triple he hit the next inning that gave him reason to be even more encouraged with the wider stance he recently began utilizing.
"I've hit way more homers than I have doubles and triples into the right-center-field gap," Uggla said. "Going the other way, that's not really my game."
While Uggla hit .179 with 22 home runs last year, he occasionally showed the ability to run into a pitch like he did with the solo shot he hit to left field against Astros starter Darin Downs. But when he lined a two-run triple to the right-center-field gap, he showed the kind of patience and plate discipline that has been absent as he has batted .185 during a 236-game stretch dating back to June 5, 2012.
"That was about as good of a pass as I have seen him take in a long time," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That ball stayed on a line and stayed true. He hit it hard. That's a really good sign. … Sometimes you hit a ball to right field and it just dies. This ball was a laser. "
Uggla is still getting used to this wider stance, which he believes will give him more time to track pitches. He entered Monday with zero hits and five strikeouts in his previous nine at-bats. But the result of Monday's third-inning at-bat gives him reason to believe this adjustment will continue to pay dividends as he gains more comfort with it.
"I'm not re-inventing myself by any means," Uggla said. "But I'd like to better myself."
Santana could make Braves debut this week
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Ervin Santana could make his first Grapefruit League start for the Braves by the end of the week. Mike Minor might have to wait a little longer to make his season debut. But both of these hurlers still appear on track to join Atlanta's injury depleted starting rotation during the middle of April.
Santana and Minor were encouraged after throwing live batting practice to Gerald Laird and three Braves Minor Leaguers on Monday morning at Champion Stadium.
Because this was the second time he completed this exercise since signing a one-year, $14.1 million contract with the Braves last week, Santana threw for 10 minutes. Minor's five-minute session served as the first time he has thrown to hitters this year.
"I felt normal once I got out there, but leading up to it my adrenaline was pumping pretty good," said Minor, who reported to Spring Training behind schedule because he was forced to remain inactive for a month following a Dec. 31 urinary tract procedure.
If Santana does not have any setbacks within the next day or two, the Braves will likely add him to their Spring Training rotation sometime this week. The 31-year-old pitcher kept himself prepared by throwing bullpen sessions during his final weeks as a free agent.
"If he wakes up good and everything is fine tomorrow morning, I think maybe we'll see him in a game here shortly," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez indicated Minor will have to throw one or two more live batting-practice sessions before being cleared to pitch in a game.
It has been more than three weeks since Minor has experienced the left shoulder discomfort that sidelined him during the first week of Spring Training. But the Braves are being extra cautious in their attempt to bring him back to a rotation that lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to what appears to be season-ending elbow injuries last week.
If Santana does make a start by the end of this week, he would be on schedule to join the Atlanta pitching staff by the time the Braves are forced to go to a five-man rotation on April 12.
"I missed almost the whole Spring Training," Santana said. "I'm just trying to get ready normal. I'm not trying to rush. That's how you get better."
• Freddie Freeman returned to the Braves' clubhouse early Monday morning and once again reiterated he is not concerned about his left thumb that was bruised by a line drive during Sunday's game against the Yankees. Freeman is hoping to return to action as early as Wednesday.
• While Alex Wood was able to complete his five scheduled innings before rain halted Monday's game against the Astros, Jordan Walden and Luis Avilan did not make their scheduled appearances. Gonzalez said it would not be hard to alter the pitching plans to allow Walden or Avilan to make an appearance within the next few days.
• Minor recently hired BB Abbott to serve as his agent. The Braves are quite familiar with Abbott, whose client list has included Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. Bo McKinnis had served as Minor's representative dating back to when the Braves selected the left-hander in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.