KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The Atlanta Braves have to replace Chipper Jones in the clubhouse, too.
Jones became the team leader as John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux departed Atlanta. The void left behind following Jones’ retirement could be filled in part by second baseman Dan Uggla, who took over Jones’ corner locker in Atlanta’s spring training clubhouse.
Catcher Brian McCann, coming back from shoulder surgery, also could be looked upon to provide direction.
“I don’t know if I am the leader or not,” said Uggla, who hit .220 with 19 homers last year. “We are going to miss Chipper and his hitting a lot, but also his leadership skills. I can’t say I am the new leader of the Braves. It will be taken care of collectively. We’ll miss him, but it isn’t just all about one guy. I’ll do what I need to do.”
First baseman Freddie Freeman, who worked out with Uggla during the offseason, said he was inspired by Uggla’s work ethic and leadership abilities.
“He worked me hard, but I saw how hard he worked, and I think it will pay off,” Freeman said as Uggla looked on, rolling his eyes. “I’m going to be a better player because of the work we did during the offseason.”
Uggla said he isn’t doing anything differently but more teammates are working with him.
“I guess if they see my work ethic it might mean something,” Uggla said. “I just want the guys to watch how I play and hope it rubs off.”
Uggla didn’t think much about his locker placement.
“I talked to Chipper about it after I found out about it,” Uggla said. “I figure I’ll only have it for about a year and I wasn’t sure if I was the right person, but Chipper told me to take it. Maybe I am only borrowing it.”