ATLANTA -- The struggles Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton have experienced this year have been more significant than anybody could have ever imagined. But with the postseason quickly approaching, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez still believes either of these two veterans are capable of becoming the latest player to become an unexpected star in October.
"The playoffs are a different season," Gonzalez said. "The [regular] season ends after 162 [games]. Guys who hit .400 during the season go 0-for and guys who are struggling are MVPs during the postseason. So hopefully, that is the case."
Since benching both two weeks ago, Gonzalez has started to give Upton and Uggla some opportunities over the past week.
Uggla started just one of the seven games played between Sept. 9-16. But the veteran second baseman's inclusion in Tuesday night's lineup against the Brewers marked his fifth start in the past seven games.
"B.J. and I have struggled more than we can ever imagine," Uggla said. "Believe me, it's not from a lack of work and effort. We've had so many blisters on our hands from hitting in the cage. But now it's time to stop working on things. You've got to realize who you are as a hitter and what kind of hitter you are and go with it."
Uggla was not happy with Gonzalez's decision to bench him after he hit .133 in the first 11 games he played after having his vision adjusted via LASIK sugery on Aug. 16.
The batting average he produced in 41 plate appearances during this span was not pretty. But he compiled a respectable .366 on-base percentage while getting used to his new vision.
"I wasn't getting any hits, but that was about as comfortable as I've felt all year long," Uggla said. "It [stunk]. You've got 40 at-bats under your belt and then all of the sudden, you get sat. But I'm not the manager."
Uggla entered Tuesday having recorded just two hits, including a home run, in the 13 at-bats he had recorded since he began seeing his name in the starting lineup again. While he might be feeling more comfortable at the plate, he is unable to ignore the fact that he has hit just .181 with a .678 OPS this year.
"I don't think I will forget what has happened this season, just because I expect so much out of myself," Uggla said. "But this is where I'm at. I've put in all the work."
Atlanta rotation lining up for Medlen to start Game 1
ATLANTA -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will likely wait to set his postseason rotation after the regular season concludes. But the way he has aligned his starting pitchers for this week's final series against the Phillies sets up the possibility for Kris Medlen to start Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
After David Hale makes his second career start on Thursday in the series opener, Gonzalez will send Medlen to the mound on Friday, with Mike Minor starting Saturday's game ahead of Julio Teheran, who will be pushed back a day to handle the regular-season finale.
"We're just trying to line them up without really making a lot of adjustments going into it," Gonzalez said. "After Sunday, we can rearrange them if we want to."
Both NLDS Game 1s are scheduled for a week from Thursday, and the Braves entered Tuesday's action protecting a half-game lead on the Cardinals for home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. If the rotation stayed in line for the beginning of the postseason, Medlen would start Game 1 with an extra day of rest, and Minor would do the same for Game 2. Teheran would be pitching on six days' rest for Game 3 next Sunday.
"We have those three days off, so it's not official that those are the three that we're going to after that," Gonzalez said. "We just want to give guys some extra days here and there. If we do choose, it can fit that way also."
Medlen has turned his season around, posting a second-half ERA of 2.63, a full run better than the mark he took into the All-Star break. The 27 year-old right-hander has also seen his strikeout-to-walk ratio jump from a middling first-half mark of 2.69 to a rotation-best 4.52 since the break. His 1.03 ERA over his last five starts has brought back memories of the dominant stretch run in 2012 that persuaded Gonzalez to give him the ball for the Wild Card game against the Cardinals.
Tim Hudson's season-ending ankle injury in mid-July left Medlen as the only member of the rotation with postseason experience until the Braves acquired veteran Freddy Garcia from the Orioles and moved him into a starting role after two solid long relief outings. Garcia has pitched in four postseasons with three different teams, notably earning the win in the decisive game of the 2005 World Series while with the White Sox. Gonzalez has mentioned Garcia and lefty Paul Maholm as candidates to start a potential Game 4.
• Gonzalez said he would like to get top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt some playing time before the regular season concludes. But it seems like the manager could wait until his club's playoff seeding is determined.
• Jonny Venters was cleared to begin playing catch from a distance of 30 feet on Tuesday. This marked the first time Venters had thrown since undergoing Tommy John surgery for a second time in May. The left-handed reliever is aiming to be pitching again at the big league level again in June.
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.