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Uggla signed by Giants to Minor League deal

Slugging second baseman was released by Braves last week after poor first half

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Uggla signed by Giants to Minor League deal play video for Uggla signed by Giants to Minor League deal

PHILADELPHIA -- If Dan Uggla approaches his productive past, the Giants may have settled their issues at second base.

Should Uggla continue his steady decline, the Giants must continue to search for answers.

It's that simple. The Giants, who signed Uggla to a Minor League contract Monday, hope that a change of scenery will help him regain the form that once made him one of the game's most formidable slugging infielders. Uggla, a three-time Major League All-Star who hit 190 homers in his first six big league seasons, could report as early as Tuesday to Triple-A Fresno, where the Giants will evaluate his skills.

Giants right-hander Tim Hudson, an Atlanta teammate of Uggla's during the previous three seasons, said he supported the signing in conversations with Giants manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean.

"He can still play," Hudson said. "I think [Uggla's slump] probably was between the ears more than anything. From a confidence standpoint, I think having teammates who are going to believe in him is going to be very beneficial."

In discussing Uggla's acquisition, Bochy mentioned two players as potential comparisons. They inhabit opposite ends of the franchise's spectrum of heroes: outfielders Pat Burrell and Jeff Francoeur.

Burrell joined the Giants in 2010 and accelerated their march to the postseason by amassing 18 home runs and 51 RBIs while compiling a .872 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 96 games. Francoeur came to the Giants last year shortly before the All-Star break and abruptly vanished after hitting .194 with no homers, two doubles and four RBIs in 63 plate appearances.

Bochy cited the possibility that Uggla could benefit by escaping Atlanta, where his career nosedived.

"Sometimes it gets to a point where you're pressing so much that a change is good," Bochy said.

The Giants are willing to consider changes among their second basemen, who entered Monday's series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies batting .180, next to last in the National League.

So the Giants opted for a low-risk gamble on Uggla, 34, who will cost the Giants only the prorated Major League minimum salary of $500,000. He has an Aug. 1 opt-out clause if he hasn't yet been promoted from the Minors.

The Braves released Uggla last Friday after he hit .162 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 48 games. But if the Giants are hoping that Uggla can recapture his past, at least it's a fairly impressive one.

He finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2006, batting .282 with 27 homers and 90 RBIs for the Marlins. The right-handed batter proceeded to hit 31 or more homers each season from 2007-11.

Uggla recorded his best all-around season in 2010, when he reached career highs in batting average (.287) and RBIs (105) while hitting 33 homers. But while his home run total rose to 36 the following year with Atlanta, his batting average dwindled to .233. Uggla's inconsistency persisted as he hit .220 in 2012 and .179 last year.

Uggla's statistical decline meant little to Hudson.

"I feel like this is going to be a great opportunity for him," Hudson said. "I love the guy. I thought he was a great teammate. He played as hard as anybody I've ever played with. Even though he's struggled, I feel like he handled it pretty well."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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