WASHINGTON -- Braves second baseman Dan Uggla opened some eyes during Spring Training when he said he had set a goal to strike out fewer than 120 times this season.
Considering Uggla has averaged 162 strikeouts over the past seven seasons, that might be an unrealistic goal. But this season's early results indicate Uggla is at least trending in the right direction.
Uggla entered Sunday's series finale against the Nationals hitting .200 with four strikeouts through his first 20 plate appearances. In addition to the sample size not being big enough from which to draw conclusions, Uggla's batting average is also not indicative of the quality of the plate appearances he recorded during the regular season's first week.
"He's had some great at-bats," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's hitting the ball about as well as anybody on this team."
After running into some tough luck with some balls that were hit directly at opposing defenders, Uggla gained some satisfaction with the decisive two-run, fourth-inning single he hit off Stephen Strasburg during Saturdays night's win at Nationals Park.
Along with giving the Braves a lead they would not squander, the single also gave Uggla more reason to believe breaking balls might not be as problematic as they were last year, when he recorded career lows in batting average (.179) and on-base percentage (.309).
Uggla spent this offseason focusing on keeping his front side much quieter than it had been as he had admittedly become "homer happy" over the past few years.
"I'd have rolled over that [curveball] last year," Uggla said. "When you're head is moving as much as mine was moving, you speed the ball up. You think that you can hit it and it's not a strike, and you're already committed to swinging at it.
"I'm excited about the way things have been going. I just need to be more selective. When you feel good, you want to go up there and hit. But I need to remember to be selective and put the ball in play."
Heyward back in lineup after neck spasms
WASHINGTON -- Jason Heyward has learned it is hazardous to his health to foul off a pitch during the first inning of a game at Nationals Park.
Heyward was bothered by neck spasms that led to the splitting headache he felt after fouling a pitch during the first inning of Saturday night's game against the Nationals. Coincidentally, he dealt with the same discomfort after he fouled a pitch during the first inning of a game played at Nationals Park on Aug. 6.
While Heyward exited during the first inning of that game last year, he played through the discomfort for the remainder of Saturday's game. The Braves did not place him in the lineup for Sunday's series finale until he arrived at the stadium to receive treatment and take some swings in the indoor batting cage.
"It feels a little better after getting loosened up, but I've still got a headache," Heyward said as he prepared for his duties to serve as Atlanta's leadoff hitter and right fielder on Sunday.
Heyward returned to the lineup the day after he experienced the neck discomfort last year and then proceeded to hit .367 with a 1.057 OPS in the 12 games he played before his jaw was fractured by Mets left-hander Jon Niese's fastball on Aug. 21.
Santana set for debut Wednesday vs. Mets
WASHINGTON -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez confirmed veteran pitcher Ervin Santana will make his season debut when he starts Wednesday night's game against the Mets at Turner Field.
Santana's debut will occur exactly one month after the Braves first contacted him with the hope he was still available to help replenish their injury-depleted starting rotation. The 31-year-old veteran hurler was reportedly close to signing with the Blue Jays before he accepted Atlanta's one-year, $14.1 million offer.
With Santana now in the mix, the Braves will begin using a traditional five-man starting rotation. Atlanta's four-man rotation had compiled a 1.42 ERA in five games entering Sunday.
David Hale, Julio Teheran and Alex Wood will all have one extra day of rest entering their next outings. Hale will start Thursday's series finale against the Mets. Teheran, Wood and Aaron Harang will serve as Atlanta's starting pitchers during next weekend's home series against the Nationals.
• Craig Kimbrel notched his 142nd career save on Friday, moving him past Gene Garber and into sole possession of second place on the Braves' all-time saves list. Kimbrel is now just 12 saves shy of John Smoltz's franchise record (154).
• Triple-A Gwinnett first baseman Ernesto Mejia entered Sunday 4-for-11 with four home runs. Mejia's power has not garnered much attention over the past few years from other Major League clubs that are seemingly worried about his limited mobility and lack of versatility. But there has been some speculation that Mejia could eventually draw interest from a Japanese club.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.