Uggla hoping to make most of opportunity with Nationals

Former All-Star looks to make the Opening Day roster as backup infielder

Uggla hoping to make most of opportunity with Nationals

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Dan Uggla had never actually been inside the visitors clubhouse at Champion Stadium before Friday, even during his four seasons playing for the Braves.

He arrived wearing a Nationals jersey on Friday, where he is trying to win a spot on the team's Opening Day roster. On the first pitch of his first at-bat of Spring Training, he roped a single into right-center field.

Uggla finished the day 1-for-2 with a walk and barely missed a double down the left-field line that landed in foul territory during Friday's 9-8 win.

"Once you get in the game atmosphere, you get going, all the emotion hits when you get in the box and you got real things going on, that's when you can really tell," Uggla said.

Uggla received a warm reception, helped by a large contingent of Nats fans in attendance. But a smattering of boos were mixed in as well, likely stemming from the way his tenure with the Braves ended. He hit just .171 during his final two seasons in Atlanta before being released last July.

The Braves still owe him $13 million this season, which oddly made him the highest-paid Braves player to the take the field Friday, despite playing for the Nationals.

Uggla enjoyed facing his former team Friday, but only because it allowed him to reconnect with old teammates, coaches, fans and clubhouse workers. He carries no angst against the Braves.

During the offseason, Uggla discovered that he suffered from oculomotor dysfunction, an eye-tracking problem that was inhibiting his ability to focus on one object, and went to see a specialist thanks to the recommendation of a former player. He said his vision is much clearer now and he is hoping he has corrected the problem for his struggles.

"There's no way that the Braves training staff could have picked up on that unless they were specifically looking for that," Uggla said. "But they had no real reason too because I don't know if I gave them any."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.