ATLANTA -- Braves hitting coach Greg Walker viewed Dan Uggla's early Spring Training struggles as a blessing in disguise. Had Uggla found success throughout the Grapefruit League season, he might not have spent the past six weeks diligently working to make the necessary changes to his approach and mechanics.
Given that Uggla entered Friday's game against the Mets hitting .167 with a .630 OPS, he is obviously still a work in progress. But Walker has at least started to see that progress move in the right direction over the course of the past couple of weeks.
"He's working for everything," Walker said. "I think we're on the right track. If you look back in , he could really hit. He used the whole field, hit breaking balls and everything. He was really good. He's working as hard as anybody in baseball right now to get it back."
Two weeks ago, Uggla adjusted his posture and the placement of his hands to mimic the stance he utilized when he batted .282 with 27 home runs and .818 OPS during his 2006 rookie season.
The results have been slow to materialize as he has batted .150 with 26 strikeouts in the 60 at-bats he has totaled in his past 17 games entering Friday. But the 33-year-old second baseman has recorded his only two multihit performances of the season within a span of his past eight games.
Uggla has continued to make himself highly susceptible to breaking balls by jumping at far too many pitches. But he impressed Walker when he did not lunge at the Dan Haren cutter that he hit over the left-center-field wall in the seventh inning of Thursday's loss to the Nationals.
"He's on time now," Walker said. "We talked about it in Spring Training about how he's always late. But he's not late right now."
Heyward gaining energy, could take swings Saturday
ATLANTA -- Having had the opportunity to walk around and interact with his Braves teammates this week, Jason Heyward has regained some of the energy that was depleted when he essentially remained sedentary for a week following his April 22 appendectomy.
"I'm getting a little more sleep," Heyward said. "It feels better being a little more active, not just sitting at home. I'm actually having to stand up, walk around and move around."
Heyward is expected to begin taking dry swings with a bat on Saturday. If all goes well, he could begin hitting off a tee, playing catch and jogging as early as Monday. His progress from there will depend on how his body reacts to different challenges.
While it is still too early for Heyward to pinpoint a specific date for his return, he remains hopeful that he will not need to wait until the final days of this month to get back in the Braves' lineup.
"As far as the end of May, I'd be disappointed if I had to wait that long," Heyward said. "I want to be back sooner rather than later."
If Heyward returns too soon before his abdominal muscles have healed, he runs the risk of straining an oblique muscle or sustaining a hernia.
Braves hitting coach Greg Walker held the same role with the White Sox in 2011, when Adam Dunn returned from an appendectomy in less than a week in early April. Dunn then proceeded to have the worst season of his career.
"Everybody has told me to take my time," Heyward said.
Francisco day to day with mild right ankle sprain
ATLANTA -- Braves third baseman Juan Francisco limped off the field with a mild right ankle sprain in the third inning of Friday night's 7-5, 10-inning loss against the Mets at Turner Field.
Francisco turned his right ankle as he attempted to pivot and return to second base after Jordan Schafer showed bunt and took a Shaun Marcum pitch. The big third baseman's right foot seemed to stick in the dirt before he went to a knee in pain. He was tagged out in the process.
After being briefly evaluated by Braves assistant trainer Jim Lovell, Francisco limped toward the dugout under his own power. The team announced his status as day to day.
"He was able to walk off under his own power, which is always a good thing," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We'll re-evaluate him tomorrow to see where he is at. But I don't think he's a [disabled list] candidate or anything like that."
Francisco had reached base in the third inning with an RBI single that cut the Braves' deficit to 3-1. Ramiro Pena replaced Francisco at third base at the start of the fourth inning and ended up recording two hits in the loss.
Chris Johnson has served as the primary third baseman over the past two weeks and will continue to serve in that role. With the right-handed Marcum in the game, the Braves opted to use the switch-hitting Pena instead of the right-handed-hitting Johnson when Francisco exited.
• Brandon Beachy is scheduled to throw two more live batting practice sessions. If all goes well, he could begin a Minor League rehab assignment during the latter portion of next week or the early portion of the following week. There is a chance he could return to the Atlanta rotation in the middle of June.
• Brian McCann was scheduled to serve as the designated hitter for Triple-A Gwinnett in Friday night's game against Scranton Wilkes-Barre. McCann, who is returning from offseason shoulder surgery, will continue his Minor League rehab assignment with Gwinnett through the end of this weekend. If all goes well, he could be activated from the disabled list for Monday night's series opener in Cincinnati.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.