DETROIT -- As the Braves were flying from Denver to Detroit in preparation for this weekend's series against the Tigers, hitting coach Greg Walker suggested batting Dan Uggla second in an attempt to create some more run-producing opportunities for the middle of the lineup.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez heeded this suggestion by putting Uggla in the second spot of his lineup for Friday night's series opener at Comerica Park.
"[Uggla] draws bases-on-balls and we need somebody to get on base in front of Justin [Upton]," Gonzalez said. "So, why not? [Walker] and I talked about it on the plane ride here a couple days ago. You know me -- I listen to my coaches. For every reason not to, there is every reason to put him in there."
Uggla has set a new franchise record for strikeouts in both of the past two seasons, and he entered Friday hitting .185 with a .312 on-base percentage. But the veteran second baseman did lead the National League in walks last year and had drawn a team-high 12 entering this series.
The second spot in the lineup is not exactly foreign to Uggla, who primarily batted in that spot during his first two full Major League seasons. The lineup's fifth spot is the only one where he has tallied more at-bats during his career.
The Braves leadoff hitters have batted .195 with a .268 on-base percentage, and the second spot in their lineup has produced a .138 batting average with a .263 on-base percentage. Consequently, Upton, the third hitter in the lineup, has batted .316 with 11 homers and just 16 RBIs.
Upton has notched 92 plate appearances this year. Just 14 of those have been recorded with a runner in scoring position and 34 of them have been completed with a runner on base.
Beachy throws BP for first time since surgery
DETROIT -- Brandon Beachy will have a few more hurdles to clear before potentially rejoining Atlanta's starting rotation during the latter portion of June. But the Braves right-hander has at least reached a point where his long return from Tommy John surgery does not seem so tedious.
Beachy passed his latest test by throwing a five-minute live batting practice session with Andrelton Simmons at the plate on Friday afternoon at Comerica Park. This marked the first time that Beachy threw to a batter since undergoing the surgical procedure last June.
"I'm not thinking about it too much," Beachy said. "I'm just going out there and trying to make pitches. I'm not thinking about effort levels or anything like that. I'm just trying to compete with myself."
A little more than 10 months removed from the surgery, Beachy has experienced some days when he has been able to throw from foul pole to foul pole without any problem. But there have also been some days when he has quickly realized that his arm strength is not quite back to where it needs to be.
"I don't want to push it too much when it's telling me not to," said Beachy, who was leading the National League with a 2.00 ERA before being shut down last year. "But when it feels good, it feels good. Those are fun days."
Beachy was able to throw all of his pitches to Simmons without any problem. But he came away from the session knowing that his fastball is not at its optimal level.
"I went back in and looked at the video," Beachy said. "It kind of looked like slow motion in comparison to what I'm expecting to see. I'm letting it go as much as I can right now without trying to blow it out. I'm not there yet. But I believe the strength will come."
Beachy will throw another live batting practice session on Sunday and then continue to take the remaining steps in this year-long rehab process. He remains confident that he could be back in Atlanta's rotation before the end of June.
"I'm right where I want to be," Beachy said.
McCann belts two homers in first rehab game
DETROIT -- After spending most of the past month restricted to extended spring training games, Brian McCann began his Minor League rehab stint with a bang. Two, in fact.
McCann homered in each of his first two at-bats during Class A Rome's 10-6 win in Greensboro on Friday night. This marked the first rehab game for the six-time All-Star, who handled the catcher's position for the first six innings and then exited after grounding into a double play in the seventh.
McCann, who is attempting to return from offseason shoulder surgery, has provided some encouragement with the improved arm strength he has displayed recently. While he would be permitted to play up to 20 games during the rehab stint, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said the stint will likely last closer to 10 games.
Gonzalez said McCann is scheduled to play five games with Rome and then join Triple-A Gwinnett late next week for what will likely be another five games. If all goes well and this schedule sticks, McCann could be activated from the disabled list at some point during the first full week in May.
While McCann has been able to swing the bat without any discomfort for more than a month, it took him much longer to regain his arm strength.
"The reports on him are that he is up to 180 feet throwing and it was really, really good," Gonzalez said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.