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.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.
David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.
Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.
The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.