Dan Uggla showed up to Lake Buena Vista a few pounds lighter than usual, but the Atlanta Braves second baseman insists the reaction has been blown out of proportion.
Uggla has generally stayed around 215 pounds, enormous biceps and all, but reported to Spring Training at 208 pounds.
“It’s not as significant as people make it out to be,” Uggla told foxsports.com. “I think somebody caught win that I may have lost a little bit of weight and ran with it like I lost like 30 pounds.”
Uggla attributes his weight loss and recently found energy to his new gluten-free diet. He made the switch after a conversation with Jayson Werth, who has been gluten-free for three years.
“I’ve always tried to eat right, I just didn’t know how to do it,” Uggla said. “It’s not just eating chicken breast, grilled chicken and rice or something like that. You’ve got to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and you’ve got to eat lean meats.”
Even though he shrugs off predictions of the shape he's in, everyone knows Uggla is looking to bounce back after a career-worst year in which he finished with a .220 average, 19 homers and 168 strikeouts. His home run total snapped his streak of five straight years of 30 or more homers, a record for second basemen.
Uggla compiled a .267 average through May, but June saw him have two separate slumps of 0-for-20 and 0-for-21 while he battled mechanical, timing and mental issues at the plate.
“My swing just felt out of whack,” Uggla said “Just a lot of different things. … I’d felt great in the cage, feel great in (batting practice) and hit homers to center field all day. But some reason it wasn’t translating to games.”
Something finally clicked for him after being benched in September, and Uggla hit .299 in the final 23 games.
“I always feel like I’m starting to get hot again, whether I struggle for a week or two weeks or whatever, but I always feel like that at the end of the season,” Uggla said. “Of course, I didn’t want it to end last year. I was sitting on 19 homers and a lot of other things I could have improved on. I would have loved for it to have gone another month.”
That, coupled with his National League leading 94 walks, won't erase the fact that Uggla's production has declined in each of the last three years, with his average falling from .287 in 2010 to .233 in 2011 and .220 in 2012. His enormous slumps led Fredi Gonzalez to demote him to the eighth spot in the batting order.
But Uggla is poised to correct his lack of production since donning a Braves uniform. He vigorously studied film from his rookie 2006 season in preparation for this year's Spring Training.
“(I) made the adjustment and I’m just concentrating on building on that, getting back to the basics a little bit,” Uggla said.
And with the speedy B.J. Upton hitting in front of him, Uggla will see more fastballs and hopefully be able to rejuvenate his career.
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