LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Instead of sticking with his normal approach to look at a number of offspeed and breaking pitches during Spring Training, Dan Uggla entered the exhibition season determined to time the fastball first and utilize the same aggressive approach he uses during the regular season.
Opposing pitchers have paid the price.
Uggla claimed his latest victim on Sunday afternoon when he helped the Braves post an 11-1 win over the Astros courtesy of his two-run homer in the first inning off Zach Duke. The blast was his sixth, giving him a career-high total in what is shaping up to be the most impressive spring of his career.
"I'm feeling good," Uggla said. "It's a nice feeling to be squaring up balls in spring. We've still got a little over a week left. I've just got to keep working and hope everything is in whack when the season starts."
Uggla had hit five home runs while batting just .206 (14-for-68) during the 2009 exhibition season. The .313 (15-for-48) batting average he owns with a little more than a week left puts him in position to better the career-best .270 (20-for-74) mark he posted in 2006, when he had to fight to make the Marlins roster as a Rule 5 Draft pick.
"He's swinging it good," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's got a good approach going right now. He's got that approach that we saw during [last year's] 33-game hitting streak."
Relaxed, confident Jurrjens in command
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jair Jurrjens has spent this month attempting to convince reporters that he has been healthy and unfazed by his less-than-impressive starts in Grapefruit League action. After dominating a split-squad Astros club at Champion Stadium on Sunday, the Braves right-hander was able to deliver this message in a much more relaxed and confident manner.
"I've been working a lot on my mental approach," Jurrjens said. "I just wanted to go out there and go all out. I think I've been holding back and trying to save the knee. But if something is going to happen, it's going to happen. I would prefer to go out, be aggressive, throw strikes and get people out."
Jurrjens seemed to gain confidence as he limited the Astros to three hits and one run in six solid innings. He struck out five of the final 12 batters he faced and recorded one more hit (two) than he allowed through the first five innings. The 26-year-old right-hander, who had posted a 10.13 ERA in his first four exhibition starts, held Houston scoreless before allowing a Travis Buck double and Matt Downs' RBI single with two outs in the sixth.
"He commanded his fastball and his breaking pitches," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He threw some changeups that flat-out disappeared in the strike zone. He did a nice job."
When Jurrjens allowed the Tigers eight runs (seven earned) in five innings last week, he admitted that he was still worrying about his right knee, which sidelined him down the stretch both of the past two years. He has not felt any discomfort this year and might have more reason to believe he does not have to worry about pushing off the mound or running the bases, like he did after recording singles in the fourth and sixth innings on Sunday.
Jurrjens' fastball velocity rested between 89-91 mph and he touched 93.
"He did pretty much all he wanted to do with his pitches, and the good thing was his velocity stayed up there," Gonzalez said. "I hope this gets him over the edge."
Gonzalez said he will wait a few more days before announcing his Opening Day starter. The most likely candidates are Jurrjens, who will start against another split-squad Astros team again on Friday, or Tommy Hanson, who is scheduled to complete five innings against a group of Astros Minor Leaguers on Monday.
'No problems' for Teheran in 'pen session
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Julio Teheran provided the Braves some relief on Saturday, when he completed a 25-pitch bullpen session with approximately 75 percent effort in a pain-free manner. Teheran had experienced some upper arm stiffness after pitching against the Cardinals on Monday.
"He had no problems," Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said.
Teheran will complete a bullpen session with maximum effort on Tuesday. If all goes well, he will likely start one of the split-squad games against the Astros on Friday.
Teheran -- ranked by MLB.com as the Braves' top prospect and the game's fourth-best prospect -- is battling Randall Delgado to begin the year as the fifth starter.
Because he does not need a fifth starter until April 11, Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said he might wait at least another week before announcing which of these prospects will begin the year in the Majors.
Freddie Freeman's two home runs against the Astros on Sunday give him four extra-base hits in his past 13 at-bats. Freeman did not record an extra-base hit in his first 44 at-bats this year.
Tommy Hanson is scheduled to pitch five innings against an Astros Minor League team on Monday. Jack Wilson, who has not experienced any recent problems with his right calf, will play shortstop in the game. Wilson is expected to be on the Opening Day roster.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.