Dan Uggla has always had the reputation as a free-swinging slugger, but he has been particularly strikeout-prone this season. And it appears that there could be an explanation for his struggles.
Braves assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher told Jeff Schultz of the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today that Uggla is dealing with vision problems and could require LASIK surgery. The 33-year-old was out of the starting lineup tonight against the Mets while Tyler Pastornicky made the start at second base.
“Well, now you have the situation with his eyes. His vision – it’s something that’s been bothering him for a while and only now is it something he’s really taking care of.
“He went to the eye doctor today and he might end up having to do Lasik. … I think they’re just trying to see if he’s a candidate right now. There’s certain balls and stuff he said he wasn’t seeing well. At times he’s flinching on balls that are good pitches and it’s like, ‘Why am I not seeing that ball better?’ So we’ll see how it goes with that.”
Uggla is hitting .194 with 92 strikeouts in 270 plate appearances this season, good enough (or bad enough, really) for a strikeout rate of 34.1 percent. Only Houston’s Chris Carter (38.4 percent) has struck out more often this season. Uggla’s strikeout rate increased from 23.2 percent in 2011 to 26.7 percent last year, so he has been trending in the wrong direction for a while now. The Braves still owe him $13 million in 2014 and 2015, so it’s in their best interests to explore any and all ways to get him back on track.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.
Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:
We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.
Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.