Outfielder B.J. Upton and second baseman Dan Uggla had miserable 2013 campaigns for the Braves, finishing with a .557 and .671 OPS, respectively. Both players finished with batting averages well under the Mendoza Line with 150-plus strikeouts. It was ugly.
As the Braves flipped the calendar over to 2014, there was a sense of optimism that both players could turn it around. Their performance near the halfway mark of spring training, however, might temper that a bit. In 20 at-bats, Upton is hitting .200 with eight strikeouts. Uggla, in 17 at-bats, is hitting .235 with no extra-base hits.
It’s spring and 20 at-bats does not a large sample make, but hitting coach Greg Walker is seeing some things to work on. Via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
“He does some different things in the game than he doesn’t do in BP,” Walker said. “He knows what he’s trying to do, and in the games we’re getting about a third of them that are really good, and then about two-thirds of them he’s spinning. He seems to be getting better and better. We’re trying to get his bad-posture spin out of it.
As for Uggla, Walker said, “When he came into camp everything was great. Then he lost it for two or three days.”
The Braves owe Upton $59.8 million through 2017; they owe Uggla $13 million in each of the next two seasons. Even if Upton and Uggla can’t figure it out, the Braves should be just fine without them. After all, they did win 96 games last season.
The Orioles beat the Blue Jays again on Thursday evening, 4-0, and in doing so eliminated the Yankees and Astros from contention in the American League Wild Card race.
The offense pecked away with a run in each of the third, fourth, seventh, and eighth innings. Starter Ubaldo Jimenez limited the Jays to one hit and three walks with five strikeouts over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Donnie Hart got the final out of the seventh. Brad Brach dominated with two scoreless innings to finish out the ballgame.
The Orioles and Blue Jays are now tied for the first and second Wild Card slots in the AL. The Tigers’ game with the Indians was postponed due to rain and they now sit 1.5 games behind both the O’s and Jays. The Mariners and Athletics game will begin shortly with the Mariners 2.5 games behind.
In a mailbag published on Thursday, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post says he has spoken with Arenado and his agent from the Wasserman Media Group. Based on that, he says the Rockies have not broached the subject of a contract extension with the All-Star third baseman.
Arenado will enter his second of four years of arbitration eligibility after earning $5 million for the 2016 season. He’s due to a hefty pay raise and will continue on that track into free agency after the 2019 season. It may behoove the Rockies to get extension talks started sooner rather than later. Saunders, however, thinks that Arenado wants to see if the Rockies become contenders in the next two seasons before signing the dotted line.
Arenado, 25, enters Thursday’s action batting .293/.361/.567 with 40 home runs, 130 RBI, and 112 runs scored in 678 plate appearances. His 40 homers is best in the National League and the 130 RBI are best in the majors. He has an argument for winning the National League Most Valauble Player Award.