Uggla says Atlanta's ready to challenge Philadelphia

Atlanta's Dan Uggla (center), flanked by general manager Frank Wren (left) and manager Fredi Gonzalez, signed a five-year, $62-million deal, the team's largest contract in close to a decade.

ATLANTA --- The Braves locked up Dan Uggla with the team's largest contract in nearly a decade. Now, they're ready to take on the mighty Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East.


Uggla completed a $62 million, five-year contract with Atlanta on Thursday, passing up the chance to perhaps earn a more lucrative deal in free agency after the 2011 season.

"This team is ready to win right now," he said. "The core group is going to be here a long time. We have the pieces in place to win for a long time."

Indeed, the Braves have addressed their major off-season need, adding a right-handed power hitter to a lineup that includes lefties Brian McCann, Jason Heyward and the new starting first baseman, rookie Freddie Freeman.

"If we were going to spring training today," general manager Frank Wren said, "we would feel very good about our team."

Uggla receives a $1 million signing bonus, $9 million this year and $13 million in each of the following four seasons.

His contract signals a commitment to keep up with a Phillies team that made a big splash by signing Cliff Lee to a $120 million deal.

Philadelphia has assembled one of baseball's best rotations, adding Lee to the already imposing trio of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

The Braves don't sound intimidated, not with Uggla ready to hold down a spot in the middle of the batting order for years to come and a starting rotation that includes Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens.

"The Phillies are going to be good. Very few people have (ever had) a pitching staff like they have," Uggla conceded. "At the same time, we have guys who are going to give us a chance to win every day. Look at our pitchers. We're pretty good, too. And we've got some guys who can hit the ball."

While the Phillies' rotation has no peer, the team did lose one of its top hitters when Jayson Werth left for a $126 million contract with the Nationals.

Uggla was surely tempted to test free agency when he saw those numbers, but he ultimately decided that Atlanta was the right fit as long as he got a five-year contract.

"Maybe I could've gotten more money next year," Uggla said. "But the bottom line is: This is where I want to be."

The Braves couldn't be happier.

"This gives us a big right-handed bat in the middle of our lineup for a long time," Wren said. "This is a good day for the Atlanta Braves."

Champs added to opening day

The World Series champion San Francisco Giants will play at the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 31, becoming the sixth game scheduled in the major leagues on Opening Day.

The Thursday openers are baseball's first since 1976.

ESPN will televise a tripleheader starting with Detroit at the New York Yankees, followed by San Diego and St. Louis and concluding with the Giants and Dodgers, which will take the place of an April 4 game between the teams on the original schedule.

Also scheduled for Opening Day are Milwaukee at Cincinnati, the Los Angels Angels at Kansas City and Atlanta at Washingon, Major League Baseball said Thursday.

-- Associated Press