MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Uggla seeing offseason work pay dividends

Uggla seeing offseason work pay dividends

Entering Spring Training, second baseman Dan Uggla was a long shot to make the Nationals' Opening Day roster. Yunel Escobar was expected to be the everyday second baseman, but an injury to Anthony Rendon has Escobar playing third base.

Believed to be well past his best days, Uggla went 12-for-46 (.261) with two homers and six RBIs in Grapefruit League play. It helps that he can see the ball much better after addressing his oculomotor dysfunction, an eye-tracking issue that was inhibiting his ability to focus on one object.

Today, Uggla is Washington's starting second baseman. MLB.com caught up with Uggla recently to talk about his comeback, the Nationals and the Braves.

MLB.com: Entering Spring Training, you were considered a long shot to make the big league club. What did you do to prove everybody wrong?

Dan Uggla: I worked hard this offseason. I had an opportunity to play a lot this spring, and I put together a decent spring. I felt like I was continuing to make improvements, getting the timing back. It's just a matter of taking advantage of an opportunity.

MLB.com: When did you realize you were back to being the hitter that you were in the past?

Uggla: It's still early, because there is still a lot of work to be done. We have a long season ahead of us, but as far as feeling the way I was feeling … I started hitting a few balls the other way. I hit a couple of homers. I was like, "All right, you are hitting balls solidly and spraying the ball around the field a little bit." That let me know that I was getting back to where I was.

MLB.com: We all know about the vision problems you had. Did your vision this spring make you realize that you were back?

Uggla: Yeah. Being able to track the ball all the way into the hitting zone has made a world of difference. I haven't been able to do that in two years. It's a good feeling. But like I said, it's still early. It's an ongoing process of doing the work, being productive and going into the right direction every day.

MLB.com: How great was it to have manager Matt Williams and general manager Mike Rizzo in your corner?

Uggla: It helped a lot. I heard so many great things about Matty. I knew him a little bit just by being in the Diamondbacks organization. I've known Mike Rizzo a little better. Those guys made it real easy on me to come in and just worry about playing, worrying about getting my work in. There wasn't any pressure. It was a nothing-to-lose-type thing. There was a small crease to be on this team. I found it, and those guys were a huge help.

MLB.com: Talk about your teammates. How much did they help you out?

Uggla: They are awesome, man. I got to meet a lot of new people. I've been playing against [Jayson] Werth, [Ryan Zimmerman], [Ian Desmond] and all these guys for a long time. To hear their excitement when I signed over here just as a Minor League invite, that was cool.

MLB.com: How shocking was it to see the Braves make so many moves before the start of the season?

Uggla: They obviously have a plan over there. … I'm happy to see them go in the right direction. They have good people there now. I'm excited for them. I'm happy to see Freddie [Freeman] has a big power guy [in Nick Markakis] to hit behind him. I know [Freeman] lost a lot of friends to trades this offseason. He'll be fine.

I grew up a Braves fan. I hope nothing but the best for them, except when they play us, of course. I met a lot of great people in that organization. I'm happy to see they are getting back on track.

MLB.com: What is the goal for Dan Uggla for this season?

Uggla: Get better every day and do something every day to help this ballclub win. That's the goal for me. I want to keep these guys happy. I'm going to be the same guy every day in here. I'm going to play my butt off out there and do something every day to help this team win.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.