7/19/2014 1:00 A.M. ET
Gonzalez manages for first time without Uggla
By Joe Morgan / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- For the first time in eight seasons, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will lead a team without Dan Uggla. Atlanta cut ties with the struggling veteran second baseman, releasing him on Friday afternoon.
"I've been with him a long time -- a very long time," Gonzalez said. "I don't think he's not been in a uniform in my managerial career someplace, whether he's in the lineup, on the bench, in the clubhouse, whatever. He's always been there."
They previously parted ways when the Marlins fired Gonzalez during the 2010 season, but they were quickly reunited as Braves for the '11 season. Gonzalez has witnessed Uggla decline from his All-Star days in Miami to one who Atlanta will pay an approximate $18.5 million, despite not being on the roster.
"It does, and it doesn't, because you see guys suffer," Gonzalez said when asked if Uggla's release saddened him. "You see guys that care about winning and losing, and he wasn't part of it. It doesn't make it harder. It is what it is, and I think it's good for both parties. And that's it."
Although they experienced an unfortunate end to their days on the same team, Gonzalez is thankful for the years he spent managing Uggla.
"That's something that I will cherish forever," Gonzalez said. "I think only maybe Bobby [Cox] and a couple of other guys got to experience Chipper Jones for 15 [years] and John Smoltz and those guys. He's my guy. He's the guy I've been the longest with. And hopefully there's other guys I can say, when my career's over, I can say that about, too."
Braves teammates praise Uggla after release
ATLANTA -- Although Dan Uggla's on-field role diminished quite rapidly during the weeks leading up to his unconditional release on Friday, his influence on his teammates remained strong.
"He was beloved by everybody in this clubhouse," Freddie Freeman said. "I think everybody would say it, he was probably one of our favorite teammates, and he's definitely going to be missed in this clubhouse. Wherever he goes, that team's going to be lucky to have him."
"Obviously, he's been a great guy for this team and a great guy in this clubhouse, and I think, even more, a good person," B.J. Upton said.
Uggla has played sparingly since losing his starting role in early May. Last weekend, he showed his frustration by arriving 30 minutes before the start of a game at Wrigley Field. He was consequently suspended for Sunday's game.
Even after that incident, however, Upton did not expect Uggla's release to happen so soon.
"I found out as soon as I walked in today," Upton said. "He was kind of on his way out, and it kind of caught me by surprise. I really don't know what to say to a guy in that situation."
Players' comments seemed to indicate that Uggla's episode of tardiness was an anomaly. Multiple Braves praised the veteran's professionalism in what was a frustrating situation for the former All-Star.
"He always went about everything the right way. He always hustled, did not complain one time," Jason Heyward said. "He wanted to be in the lineup every day. He supported everybody. Even going through my struggles, he was right there. When I bounced back, he said, 'I knew you could do it, and I'm proud of you.'"
And many believe that we have not seen the last of Uggla's talent. Gerald Laird believes a change of scenery might be good for Uggla.
"I see it all the time," Laird said. "You see pitchers that kind of lose what they've done in one organization and go to another organization, and it's just one thing someone else says, a different word that kind of gets you clicking again. He's still a young man. He's got a lot of baseball left."
Uggla's departure is especially hard on Freeman, whose locker sits right next to the second baseman's. However, Freeman, as well as most Braves, was happy to see Uggla find a resolution to his difficult situation.
"It's not fun, but we know this is a business, and that's definitely a tough side of it," Freeman said. "When you build a relationship with someone since 2011, it's definitely tough to see him go. It's definitely going to take me a while to get over this, but I'm just going to be happy for him when he goes to a new team and gets a fresh start."
Uggla's future is uncertain, but the Braves have a National League East crown to defend. They begin the second half tied for first place with the Nationals, and they will have to make their final run without one familiar face cheering them on.
"It's definitely going to be difficult tonight, but we're going to be able to do it," Freeman said. "We're going to do this for Dan tonight."
Said Laird: "Now it's back to baseball. We have games to play, and Dan understands that. Everybody in this room understands that."
Gattis gets first work behind the plate in Minors
ATLANTA -- Evan Gattis (back) saw his first action behind the plate in more than three weeks, catching five innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday night as part of his current rehab assignment. He finished 0-for-2 with a groundout and a flyout.
The Braves plan for Gattis to catch seven innings on Saturday before serving as Gwinnett's designated hitter on Sunday. Gattis also served as the designated hitter on Thursday night and did not experience any issues.
"Fingers crossed, he doesn't need any more at-bats [after Sunday]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "… And if he feels good, then we'll activate him on Monday."
Gattis finished 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Thursday night in his first game since going down with a bulging thoracic disc on June 27. Gonzalez then spoke with Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker about the timing issues that prevented Gattis from catching up to some mid-90s fastballs in his rehab debut.
"[Snitker] said he looked great, other than he's a little rusty," Gonzalez said. "The timing wasn't there. He hadn't seen live pitching in at least two weeks, maybe even more. So that'll come."
Draft signing deadline passes without incident
ATLANTA -- Major League Baseball's Friday deadline for clubs to sign players selected in this year's First-Year Player Draft passed rather quietly in Atlanta. Each of the club's top 11 selections signed by June 26.
First-rounder Braxton Davidson was inked on June 16 and took batting practice with the Braves at Turner Field that day. Second-round selection Garrett Fulenchek signed even sooner, officially agreeing to terms with Atlanta on June 10.
The Braves signed 19 of their top 26 picks and 23 of the 40 players they selected, including 38th-round second baseman J.J. Franco, the son of former Mets reliever John Franco. The highest selection not to sign was second baseman Patrick Dorrian, taken in the 12th round.
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.