PHILADELPHIA – If “Lightning in a Bottle” appeared on a cocktail menu, Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean would order a round before stopping to find out what’s in it.
The team that brought you Pat Burrell and Cody Ross – OK, Jeff Francoeur, too – made another low-risk, high-hopes play on Monday by signing former All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla to a minor league contract.
Uggla, who was released four days earlier by the Atlanta Braves after two miserable seasons, will report to Triple-A Fresno as early as Tuesday. He has an Aug. 1 opt-out built into his deal, so he can become a free agent if he’s not on the major league roster by that time.
[RELATED: Giants agree to terms with Dan Uggla]
Bochy spoke to Uggla earlier Monday. He did not flat-out promise the power-hitting second baseman that he would be in the big leagues after a few tuneup games. But …
“At some point, though, sure, we’ll have to make a call,” Bochy said.
If history is any indication, the Giants are sure to exercise a little confirmation bias in the event Uggla hits a home run or two for the Grizzlies. Burrell played just five games for Fresno in 2010, going 5 for 16, before the Giants purchased his contract. That play worked out for everyone, all the way to the crushed Bud Light cans that Pat the Bat scattered along the World Series parade route.
Like Burrell, who was unhappy in Tampa Bay when the Rays released him in 2010, the situation with Uggla had gotten unpleasant in Atlanta. He was suspended for a game July 13, reportedly because he showed up late. Four days later, the Braves released him with more than $18 million remaining on a contract that runs through next season.
The Giants received a character reference from right-hander Tim Hudson, who played with Uggla in Atlanta and called him one of the best teammates he’s had.
“You never really know what players are going through, and in Atlanta, there are some things that might have happened. Next thing you know you lost your confidence and with that comes a lack of playing time.
“But from a personal standpoint, I’m so happy he has this opportunity. He played as hard as anyone I’ve ever played with. … I mean, I love this guy.”
Hudson texted Uggla over the weekend after hearing the Braves had released him, not so much to lobby on the Giants’ behalf as much as out of concern for a friend.
“He understands this is a great opportunity,” Hudson said. “He’s thrilled for the chance to hopefully rejuvenate his career. It’s a fresh start for him.”
It’ll take a lot of room deodorizer to start fresh after the previous two seasons. Uggla, 34, was hitting .162/.241/.231 with two home runs and had lost his everyday role. He hit .179 in nearly 450 at-bats last season, too. So he’s got a lot to prove.
Uggla, a three-time All-Star, averaged 32 home runs and 91 RBIs per season from 2007-11. He’s not as good a defender as Brandon Hicks, who has a similar low-average, high-power profile with the bat. Hicks was designated for assignment on July 11, exactly one month since his last big league hit.
Uggla has one thing Hicks does not: a major league track record.
“We had a good talk and he’s eager to get to Fresno, to find the swing he had,” Bochy said.
If he can, the Giants will clink glasses to that.
The Giants officially placed first baseman Brandon Belt on the 7-day disabled list for players with concussion symptoms after processing the eligibility paperwork with the league office. Belt could return as soon as Sunday’s home series finale against the Dodgers but he reported only mild improvement Monday.
Belt was hit in the face by a thrown ball in batting practice on Saturday in Miami. The club recalled infielder Adam Duvall from Triple-A Fresno and started him at first base on Monday.