KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - Dan Uggla appears to be on track for a much better start this season, and Brandon Beachy is getting closer to being ready for opening day, too.
Uggla homered in his third straight game and Beachy struck out six in four innings while giving up two hits as the Atlanta Braves defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 in a split-squad game Saturday.
Uggla, who didn't play Friday, connected with a man on in the sixth inning off Blue Jays prospect Deck McGuire and is batting .310 with four homers and nine RBIs this spring.
The second baseman had been known as a notoriously poor spring hitter and his struggles carried over to the first half last season, his first year with the Braves. That's why he brought a new mindset to camp this year.
``I want to be aggressive. I'm not just going up there with the idea of just watching pitches,' Uggla said. ``I was too passive before. Now if I get a fastball, I'm attacking it. I changed my whole approach. I don't know why it took me so many years to figure it out.'
Uggla began last season in a slump that lasted nearly three months. But he then put together a 33-game hitting streak and ended the year with a career-best 36 homers.
``I'm glad he's on our side,' Beachy said. ``He's crushing the ball.'
Beachy was 7-3 with a 3.68 ERA and ranked second among rookies in the majors last season with 169 strikeouts. But he had trouble making it past the sixth inning because of high pitch counts.
By throwing more strikes, Beachy hopes to work longer into games for the Braves this season, and his third spring outing was encouraging.
``It was definitely a step in the right direction,' the right-hander said. ``I never let my control leave me.'
Beachy had walked five in his previous start and came in with a 9.00 ERA. But he walked only one and the Blue Jays' run against him came after a popup to shallow left field ended up a triple.
``I felt much more comfortable,' Beachy said. ``I threw some good ones with all my pitches.'
Chipper Jones and Michael Bourn each had two hits for the Braves. Catching prospect Christian Bethancourt also had two hits. Rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky drove in a pair of runs with a sacrifice fly and a single.
The other Atlanta squad also won, beating the Mets 3-2 in Port St. Lucie as Kris Medlen allowed one hit over four scoreless innings.
NOTES: Mike Minor, who hasn't allowed a run in three spring starts, will pitch for the Braves on Sunday against Baltimore. . Braves shortstop Jack Wilson (calf) is making progress in his rehab and hopes to avoid starting the season on the disabled list. He hasn't played this spring. . Infielder Josh Wilson (hamstring) may be available to play for the Braves as early as Sunday. He has been sidelined since March 7. . Tom Glavine and Gene Garber will serve as Braves guest instructors next week. Glavine is scheduled to arrive on Sunday and Garber on Monday.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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