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Nationals Notes: Dan Uggla's concussion issues explained

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The Washington Nationals signed veteran infielder Dan Uggla to a minor league deal. The 34-year-old infielder is hoping the concussion issues he's dealt with since 2012 are finally behind him. Can Uggla bounce back in 2015?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Globe baseball reporter Nick Cafardo has written previously about veteran infielder Dan Uggla's belief that his struggles in recent seasons have been tied to the effects of a concussion.

In last week's Sunday Baseball Notes column, Cafardo wrote that the Washington Nationals' decision to sign Uggla to a minor league deal was a smart move.

"Uggla’s demise might have been because of an undetected concussion he played through," Cafardo explained.

"Uggla’s condition was confirmed by doctors this offseason."

In this week's edition of Cafardo's Sunday Baseball Notes, he tells the whole story.

Uggla was hit in the head by a pitch in July 2012 and then again in Spring Training in 2013, and his decline followed, with the 32-to-34-year-old infielder (who struggled at the plate in 2011 too with a .233/.311/.453 line, 22 doubles and 36 HRs in 672 PAs), putting up a combined .194/.318/.353 line with 42 doubles and 43 HRs in 1,324 PAs between 2012-14.

After 48 games and 145 PAs last season, the Braves parted ways with Uggla, releasing him with over $18M left on the 5-year/$62M extension he signed with Atlanta in 2011.

As Cafardo writes this morning, Uggla, "[d]ejected about how fast his career declined," and left with no explanation/answers, received a call from former major leaguer Marquis Grissom, who related his own story of struggling after being hit in the head and, "hooked up Uggla with Las Vegas orthopedist Robert Donatelli.":

"Donatelli and his staff put Uggla through a series of tests and determined he had suffered oculomotor dysfunction. Uggla, who had gone so far as to get Lasik treatment because he wasn’t seeing the rotation of the ball, had 20/15 vision. But the testing found that when Uggla moved his head or body, his vision was 20/100. This explained being unable to see the rotation of the ball."

With the problem identified, "Uggla was given two weeks of exercises to improve the condition. And in November, Donatelli declared him healthy, his motion vision back to normal."

Uggla took the minor league deal the Nationals offered because of his relationship with Nats' GM Mike Rizzo, who was Arizona's scouting director when the D-Backs drafted the infielder in the 11th Round of the 2001 Draft.

"The Nationals were familiar with the condition," as well, Cafardo writes, "having gone through it with center fielder Denard Span, though his dropoff in 2013 wasn’t quite so severe."

In D.C., barring the acquisition of another second baseman this winter, Uggla will head into Spring Training with what Cafardo sees as a, "... great chance to win the job against Danny Espinosa."

Can the 34-year-old Uggla regain the form that allowed him to hit 30+ HRs in five consecutive seasons from 2007-2011?

It's certainly worth the risk of a minor league deal to find out, right?