KISSIMMEE, Fla. — When Dan Uggla arrived for spring training with the Atlanta Braves, he felt at home.
The layout of the clubhouse was just as he remembered it. He knew where to find his locker. All the guys seemed like old friends.
“It’s a more comfortable feeling,” Uggla said, pulling on his uniform. “I know where my place is on this team. I already know everybody respects me as a ballplayer, the way I go about my business.”
The Braves can only hope that Uggla’s familiarity leads to a much better start in 2012.
A year ago, after being acquired from the Marlins and signed to a five-year, $62 million contract, Uggla pressed to make a good first impression on his new team – and wound up making a mess of the first half of the season.
By the Fourth of July, Uggla’s average was a puny .173.
The next day, he started a hitting streak that lasted 33 games – the longest in Atlanta history.
Of course, after putting himself in such a deep hole, Uggla was only able to raise his average to .233 by the end of the season. Still, he turned in a more-than-respectable year, considering how it began, leading the Braves with 36 homers and 82 RBI, while extending his streak of 30-homer seasons to five in a row. No other second baseman in baseball history has more than three.
Still, there’s the matter of that hideous slump.
“What I went through last year, it’s hard to put a finger on it,” Uggla said.
It’s clear he put too much pressure on himself. He knew the Braves expected big production in the middle of their lineup.
Now, he’s ready to show everyone the real Dan Uggla – not just the half-season model.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I feel more confident coming into this year, just from the simple fact I’ve already done it before.”