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Fredi looking to boost spirits of Uggla, B.J.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- During December's Winter Meetings, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he planned to talk to Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton in an attempt to give the two veterans some reassurance, as both attempt to rebound from the tremendous struggles they endured last season.

Gonzalez spoke to Uggla over the phone last month and has continued to have similar casual conversations since the veteran second baseman arrived in Florida earlier this year. He plans to do the same with Upton, when the veteran outfielder comes to camp within the next few days.

"I talked to Danny this winter and I've had some conversations since he's been on this field here," Gonzalez said. "But yeah, the 2013 season is over. It's 2014. I haven't had the chance to talk to B.J., but it will be the same."

While Uggla was certainly not happy about being left off the Braves' roster for the National League Division Series against the Dodgers, he did arrive in camp a week earlier than necessary, with the desire to prove he deserves to continue serving as the club's starting second baseman.

After Uggla hit .179 with 21 home runs and a .671 OPS last year, there was reason to wonder if the Braves would trade him and a portion of the $26 million he is owed over the next two years. But a suitable deal never materialized.

"I'm going into the season, right now, thinking Danny is going to play second base," Gonzalez said. "I look at it as 2013 was a tough season for a lot of guys and 2014 is a clean slate and [it's time to] go forward."

Burdened by the pressure created by a five-year, $75.25-million contract and the unfamiliarity he experienced as he played outside the Rays organization for the first time in his career, Upton hit .184 with a .557 OPS last year with the Braves.

When Braves hitting coach Greg Walker visited Upton in Tampa a couple of weeks ago, he was encouraged by the adjustments the outfielder had made with his swing.

Upton and his brother, Justin, will be joining their Atlanta teammates within the next couple of days. Position players are scheduled to report by Tuesday, with the team holding its first full-squad workout the following day.

Jason Heyward and Chris Johnson made early arrivals to camp on Thursday. The only projected position players who have not yet reported are Andrelton Simmons and the Upton brothers.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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