B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla not exactly knocking anyone’s socks off this spring

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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.

Dallas Keuchel to return to Astros’ rotation on Friday

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Astros manager A.J. Hinch told the media, including MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, that starter Dallas Keuchel will come off of the disabled list and rejoin the rotation on Friday against the Tigers. Keuchel has missed nearly two months with a neck injury.

Prior to landing on the DL, Keuchel was 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA and a 69/18 K/BB ratio over 75 2/3 innings. He seemed to be on his way to potentially win another Cy Young Award.

Hinch also noted that Collin McHugh will start on Saturday and Lance McCullers will start on Sunday.

Video: Ketel Marte hits an inside-the-park home run

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Braves starter Aaron Blair had a nightmarish bottom of the third inning on Wednesday afternoon against the Diamondbacks. He had just given up a run on a Daniel Descalso triple hit to center field that center fielder Ender Inciarte read poorly. In the following at-bat, Ketel Marte laced a curve ball to right field. Sean Rodriguez wasn’t able to get to it in time, so the ball bounced off the fence and caromed back towards the stands along the right field line. By the time Rodriguez was able to retrieve the ball, Marte was already on his way home and scored standing up.

The inside-the-park homer will certainly provide a boost to Marte’s stats. He entered Wednesday’s action batting .196/.255/.370 in 51 plate appearances.