ATLANTA -- When the Braves called up shortstop Andrelton Simmons at the start of June, utility infielder Jack Wilson knew his playing time was going to be cut. But he didn't realize his next start wouldn't come until June 29, nearly a full month since his last start, on May 30.
Wilson was starting at second base in the Braves' series opener against the Nationals, allowing manager Fredi Gonzalez to give Dan Uggla a mental break as he struggles through a prolonged slump.
"You don't want to give [Wilson] a start because Uggla's not doing well, you want to give him a start to give him a start," Gonzalez said. "So you kill two birds. Give Danny a little mental breather, and get Jack in there."
Before Simmons was called up from Double-A Mississippi, Wilson was often used as a defensive replacement for Tyler Pastornicky, along with starting every time right-hander Tim Hudson pitched. But Simmons' outstanding defense has eliminated the need for a defensive replacement and a personal shortstop for Hudson, a sinkerball pitcher.
Wilson said he has tried to learn from other members of the Braves' bench as he adjusts to his new role as a bench player.
"[I've] learned a lot from [Eric Hinske] and [David] Ross, and Matt Diaz as well," Wilson said. "I'm still learning it, but at the same time, all you do is you come and you keep preparing every day, just in case your name is called."
Wilson has not made a start at second base since being traded to Atlanta by the Mariners on Aug. 31, 2011. He has made 38 starts there in his career, and played the final two innings at second on June 10.
Wilson joked he will rely on Simmons to make sure he's in the right spot defensively Friday night.
"It's one of those things you just go out and try to stick with the basics, don't try to do too much," Wilson said. "[I'm] just going to go out there and let Simmons tell me where to play, because it's like his 22nd day in the big leagues. So if he sees me anywhere, 'Hey, Jack go ahead and move over.'"
Uggla out of starting lineup for first time this year
ATLANTA -- Dan Uggla was not pleased when Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez sent a text to alert him that he was going to give him a chance to rest during Friday night's series opener. But at the same time, Uggla realized his recent struggles had reached a point where Gonzalez felt it was best to leave him out of the starting lineup for the first time this season.
"It's a terrible thing for the simple fact that I don't get to play today and try to help my team win," Uggla said. "Also for the fact that my performance out there has made it to where this is what [Gonzalez] wants to do. He doesn't want me out there. You can call it a mental day. You can call it a day off. You can call it whatever you want. But anytime he feels like you need to have one of these days, it's not a good thing."
Gonzalez has praised Uggla's ability to remain focused and continue providing contributions like the defensive gem he created while starting a clutch double play in Wednesday's win over the D-backs. But with his veteran second baseman hitting .108 (7-for-65) with a .310 on-base percentage and .169 slugging percentage in his previous 20 games, he opted to give him a chance to clear his head.
"This baseball season is a grind," Gonzalez said. "Just giving them a break to get the fun back into it is something we need to do as a manager. I know he doesn't want it. He'll fight you tooth and nail for it. But I outrank him."
Uggla had started each of the previous 75 games played by the Braves this year. He has seen his batting average drop from .276 to .235 since he hit two home runs in a four-hit performance against the Marlins on June 5.
During Thursday night's loss against the D-backs, Uggla struck out three times -- marking the eighth time this season and fifth time in June that he has reached this total.
Though he has struggled this month, Uggla certainly would rather be where he is now than where he was at this same point last year. Through the Braves' first 75 games last year, he was hitting .176 with a .559 OPS. Two weeks later, he began what became an Atlanta-record 33-game hitting streak.
"I've had my struggles in the past, and even though last year was to the extreme, I still got through it and had another good year," Uggla said. "This is something we battle as baseball players. Every year, you're going to go through something like this, and you just want to minimize it and get it away as soon as you can."
Prado held from lineup with achy right hamstring
ATLANTA -- Braves left fielder Martin Prado was out of the starting lineup for Friday's series opener against the Nationals. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Prado has been dealing with a strained right hamstring for the last couple weeks, but it is not considered serious.
"Prado came in today, he's begging to get in the lineup," Gonzalez said. "We'll give him a breather today, get him through the All-Star break, use those four days, and he'll be fine the rest of the year."
Gonzalez said Prado has done a good job managing the injury, but he noticed Prado laboring a bit in the outfield in the Braves' 3-2 loss to Arizona on Thursday. Prado, who is leading the Braves with a .319 average, was available off the bench Friday.
Prado has not been out of the lineup since May 5, when he came into the Braves' 13-9 win in Colorado as a pinch-hitter. He has not had a day off since May 4.
Gonzalez said he will also work in off-days for third baseman Chipper Jones and catcher Brian McCann in this weekend's series. Jones will likely sit Saturday and McCann on Sunday.