Wood cites McDowell for giving helping hand
Braves pitching coach known for his calming influence in heat of battle
ATLANTA -- After issuing consecutive two-out walks in the third inning of Tuesday night's 2-0 win over the Indians, southpaw Alex Wood received a visit from Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell. The rookie responded to the brief meeting by getting the next batter he faced -- Mike Aviles -- to ground out.
While Braves bench coach Carlos Tosca did not specifically know what Aviles would do, he was pretty confident what the result would be. From the start of Spring Training through approximately the first six weeks of this season, Tosca charted what happened following a visit to the mound from McDowell. Tosca said 97-98 percent of the time the Braves pitcher responded by retiring the next batter.
"There's a confidence factor and a trust factor involved," Tosca said. "There's a calming effect right away from him. He slows you down and then he gives you a direction. He gives you an attack plan, how to attack that particular guy in that particular situation, instead of being wishy-washy or guessing or saying, 'Why don't we try this?'"
Wood said the visits from McDowell slow him down when necessary and also provide him confidence that their approach to a certain batter or particular situation will be effective.
"It's kind of a soothing factor, I guess," Wood said. "He has an idea, he watches a lot of video like the rest of the starters, and he comes out and he kind of has an idea of what he thinks we should do to that hitter. That's usually a big help, and then we go and do it, and as long as we execute, it usually ends up working out pretty good."
Uggla returns from DL confident in approach
ATLANTA -- Dan Uggla's 2-for-4 night with Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday confirmed the Braves' hope that their starting second baseman would spend only the 15-day minimum on the disabled list recovering from LASIK surgery done on Aug. 16.
With Uggla back in the starting lineup for Wednesday night's game against the Indians -- batting sixth and playing second base -- both team and player were prepared to face the next unknown in dealing with his vision problems that have taken months to adequately correct.
Uggla went 1-for-3 with a walk and a broken-bat infield single in the Braves' 3-2 walk-off win, but he also took a few wild swings in a pair of strikeouts.
"Facing [Indians starter Justin] Masterson tonight didn't help any -- he's tough to pick up anyway," Uggla said. "It's still baseball, this game's still hard. I'm still going to have bad games, and I'm going to have good games, but the bottom line is, I'm in a consistent place now and I'm just happy where I'm at."
The offense has idled in the week since right fielder Jason Heyward sustained a broken jaw, drawing even more attention to Uggla and the question of how much the procedure could turn around what has been a challenging season for the 33-year-old veteran.
"I was a lot more confident in the box, and just that alone is more than half the battle," Uggla said. "Actually being able to see the ball, and as I got more at-bats and was seeing more pitches, every pitch felt that much better."
Uggla had prepared for the worst when he realized the earlier start times for his two scheduled rehab games in Gwinnett meant he would have to deal with a few tricky shadows in the batter's box. But after going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts on Monday and striking out looking in his first two plate appearances on Tuesday, he belted a solo home run in the fifth inning and followed with a single in the seventh, tacking on some tangible results to a confidence-building process that was already well underway.
"It's not like it was a pulled hamstring or anything like that," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I've seen the good swings during BP. During the road trip, he hit every day, so it was just a matter of him getting some timing down and seeing some live pitching."
While Gonzalez added that the Braves were willing to be patient with results -- managing a player recovering from midseason LASIK surgery represents uncharted waters for the coaching staff -- there was comfort in the fact that Uggla ended his stay in Gwinnett with a pair of hits after recording outs his first five times facing live pitching.
After hitting his 21st home run of the season on July 25 in New York, Uggla batted .083 with 23 strikeouts in 17 games before being placed on the disabled list on Aug. 13. To make room for Uggla's return to the 25-man roster on Wednesday, the Braves optioned outfielder Todd Cunningham to Gwinnett.
• Alex Wood has allowed one or fewer runs in each of his last five starts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this matches the longest such streak by a rookie pitcher in Braves history. Boston's Jim Turner set the mark in 1937 and Milwaukee's Bob Sadowski matched it in '63.
• According to STATS LLC, the 0.90 ERA Wood produced in five starts this month currently stands as the third-lowest ERA by a starting pitcher in August since 1955. Miami rookie right-hander Jose Fernandez, who will make his final start of the month against the Braves on Friday, has posted a 0.82 ERA in his first five August starts.
• Reliever Jordan Walden has been dealing with some discomfort in both of his legs over the past few days. The right-hander and manager Fredi Gonzalez chose not to specifically address the ailment. But Gonzalez echoed Walden's sentiment that he would be available to pitch again within the next couple of days.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.