6/4/2014 5:17 P.M. ET
Diminutive Simmons fitting well in bullpen
By Mark Bowman and Joe Morgan / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- In the months before the Braves selected right-hander Shae Simmons in the 22nd round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, the 5-foot-11 hurler had some "weird" conversations with scouts. They all asked Simmons the same pressing question.
Will you grow?
"I was like, 'Nope, probably not,'" Simmons said, laughing. "My dad's not real tall either."
Bill Simmons, Shae's father, stands at six feet -- "even."
"He's got me by an inch," Simmons said.
The first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft begins Thursday, and success stories like Simmons' represent hope for the guys who are selected during the second and third days of the Draft.
Only two of Atlanta's 48 22nd-round selections have played more than 100 games in the Majors. Simmons is one of only three others who have made it to The Show.
"I always thought that I had the ability," Simmons said. "It's just, I had to prove it to everybody around me that I'd be able to do it."
Like Simmons himself, the pitcher's path to the Major Leagues was short. The Braves purchased his contract from Double-A Mississippi on May 30. One day later, Simmons was thrown into a one-run game with two men on base. He fired two quick strikes to Jarrod Saltalamacchia with fastballs touching 94 and 96 mph before getting the Marlins' catcher to swing and miss at an 84-mph slider.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez liked what he saw, so he used Simmons as the closer on Sunday while Craig Kimbrel rested after three straight days of work. The young hurler got into some trouble by giving up two singles and issuing a walk. But he escaped the inning unscathed, inducing two grounders to the other guy named Simmons -- Andrelton, the Gold Glover.
"Obviously, you bring somebody up because there's a need," Gonzalez said. "So why make him wait another four or five days? Let's go."
As Simmons navigated through his first two Major League outings, his fastball was clocked as high as 97 mph. Along with Kimbrel, the Braves now have two hurlers south of six feet who can bring the heat.
"It doesn't matter, your height really, if you get on top of the ball," Simmons said. "It'll look the same, especially when you have the type of stuff Craig has. It doesn't matter if you're seven-foot tall or 5-foot-5. It's going to be hard to hit regardless."
As far as other similarities to Kimbrel, however, Simmons won't be dangling his right arm to the side as he looks in for the count. In fact, don't expect anything too stylistic from Simmons when he toes the rubber.
"I'm just normal, I think," Simmons said, laughing. "Maybe not."
Walden to begin Triple-A rehab assignment
ATLANTA -- Jordan Walden will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday night as he continues his recovery from a strained left hamstring.
The Braves would like the right-hander to make at least two appearances before they discuss his return to the Majors. Walden threw a pain-free bullpen session of 30 pitches at a high effort level on Tuesday, an outing that encouraged everyone involved.
"The first two were just kind of nice and easy," Walden said on Tuesday. "But today, I kind of did a little more."
Before Wednesday's game, Braves general manager Frank Wren indicated that Walden would soon begin a rehab assignment.
"He threw yesterday and threw great," Wren said.
Walden admitted when Atlanta placed him on the disabled list on May 10 that his hamstring had bothered him dating back to Spring Training. He decided to pitch through the pain, recording a 2.92 ERA, 19 strikeouts and six walks in 12 1/3 innings.
However, the discomfort became too much to bear when he gave up two earned runs in one inning against the Giants on May 4 at Turner Field. That outing snapped a streak of 10 consecutive scoreless appearances for Walden.
"I threw one more pitch and thank God I got out of the inning," Walden said on May 10. "That one kind of told me, 'It's had enough and I need to get it better.' I just need to make sure I get that better before I hurt my arm."
Uggla ready to contribute in limited role
ATLANTA -- Dan Uggla has spent the past month facing the reality that his days as an everyday player for the Braves are likely over. But as he prepared for Wednesday afternoon's series final against the Mariners, the veteran second baseman said he hasn't discussed his uncertain future with any of the organization's executives or coaches.
"I have no control over that," Uggla said. "All I can do is while I'm here, be the best teammate I can. If they want to move me or trade me or whatever, then I'll handle that opportunity when it comes."
After excluding Uggla from last year's playoff roster, the Braves knew it was in their best interest to attempt to trade him this past offseason. But they were never able to find a team willing to eat a suitable portion of the $26 million the 34-year-old infielder is due through the end of the 2015 season.
Uggla is now owed approximately $21 million through the remainder of his contract. While the Braves will continue to search for a potential trade partner, multiple sources have continued to say the club will definitely not release Uggla at any point during this season.
Thus while remaining in limbo, Uggla will continue occupying a valuable spot on Atlanta's roster. Because of his limited defensive versatility, his bench value is essentially restricted to the power potential he brings as a pinch-hitter.
But while starting just three of the Braves' past 26 games, Uggla has recorded only four pinch-hit plate appearances, none of which have resulted in a hit.
The Braves gave Uggla a chance to prove he could prove productive in an everyday role this season. But after watching him hit .184 in the 28 starts he made through May 6, the club moved him to a backup role. Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky shared the second-base duties until Tommy La Stella was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett last week.
The understanding is La Stella's targeted to serve as the starter for the remainder of this year.
"I can read the writing on the wall," Uggla said. "While I'm here, I'm going to play my part. If I go somewhere else, then I'll try to take advantage of the opportunity there too."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.