Tag:B.J. Upton
Posted on: July 26, 2011 11:49 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 12:03 am
 

Upton draws interest, gets advice from brother

You bet the rumors swirling around his Tampa Bay batting helmet have gotten B.J. Upton's attention.

"Thanks for all the support on twitter - I appreciate it," he tweeted from his @BJUPTON2 account Tuesday -- presumably as Atlanta, or Cincinnati, or San Francisco phoned Rays general manager Andrew Friedman yet again.

"Now I know how my brother felt this offseason," came another tweet from Upton. "Anyone hear any good trade rumors this week? Still here!"

Matter of fact, the buzz grew louder Tuesday surrounding Upton. Several industry sources believe that the Rays, at 9 1/2 games out in the AL East, will dump Upton by Sunday's non-waiver trading deadline the same way they dumped Matt Garza and bade farewell to free agents Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Grant Balfour last winter.

Money -- the lack of it, thanks in no small part to horrible attendance in Tropicana Field -- remains a significant problem for the Rays. And it's not getting any better.

Several clubs are looking for the kind of spark that Upton (.229, 15 homers, 53 RBIs, 23 steals, terrific defense) can provide. He would fit perfectly in San Francisco, especially if the Giants fall short in their quest to obtain the Mets' Carlos Beltran. The Giants, according to sources, have interest. So, too, do the Nationals, Reds, Pirates, Braves, Cardinals and, possibly, the Phillies writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

And B.J. is right -- brother Justin, Arizona's right-fielder -- went through a similar stretch last winter.

"I've talked to him, and we laugh about it," Justin told me Tuesday afternoon. "When it comes down to it, like last winter with me, it's out of your control. You just have to do your thing, see what happens and let it be."

Difference is, Arizona is committed to Justin Upton, 23. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers made that clear last winter when he traded third baseman Mark Reynolds to Baltimore.

The Rays? Not so much with B.J., 26 -- much to Upton's chagrin.

"Obviously, he's played his whole career there and he lives there," says Justin, who said the brothers probably talk four or five times a week. "He wants to stay. It's always tough in a situation like that."

Ubaldo Jimenez to Yankees?

The Yankees appear to be in the best shape to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez if the Rockies decide to deal him, as colleague Danny Knobler writes. Here are takes from two scouts who have watched Jimenez pitch in recent days:

Scout one: "Quite frankly, he's not the same guy as he was last year. Before, when he needed to go get it, he'd hit 100 m.p.h. When I saw him in Denver, he'd reach back to muscle up and it was 95. [Atlanta's] Scott Proctor threw harder. If Ubaldo at sea level is 91, 92, 93, he's not the same guy."

Scout two: "I can't imagine Jimenez going anywhere. If he's on a real frickin' contender, he's a No. 3 right now. Something's missing."

Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:

--Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he thinks Friday and Saturday will be the key days when the trade market loosens up and the action begins. "There are a lot of clubs out there with scouts looking at minor league clubs right now," Towers says.

-- While you might think they're looking to replace injured shortstop Stephen Drew, Towers says he is looking for pitching, pitching and pitching. Starting and/or relief.

-- The Giants, Rangers and Phillies have scouts in Cincinnati this week watching Mets' outfielder Carlos Beltran as New York GM Sandy Alderson enters the crucial final days before making one of the more significant decisions in recent Mets history. "Beltran looks real good right now," another scout who has been watching in Cincinnati this week says. "He's looking healthy."

-- One club that has spoken with Washington say closer Drew Storen can be obtained in the right deal.

-- Rival clubs say the Angels are diving into the trade market after owner Arte Moreno, hesitant at first, now has approved additional payroll for midseason help. While the Angels are looking for a third baseman, they would send shortstop Erick Aybar to the Mets for Jose Reyes straight up and take the rest of Reyes' $9 million 2011 salary if New York would bite (the Mets won't, they're keeping Reyes). "I'd do that if I'm the Mets," one NL executive says. "They're not going to be able to re-sign him. How can you give Reyes 10 years at $20 million [each] when he's hurt all the time?

-- Minnesota doggedly has insisted it can win a weak AL Central for the past month, and Tuesday night's comeback win in Texas was a big one. If the Twins do decide to become sellers, don't be surprised if they make outfielder Delmon Young available.

-- Well, in a weak market for starting pitchers, look who's coming off of the disabled list to start Friday for Seattle: Erik Bedard. He'll start against Tampa Bay unless something happens between now and Friday, and you can bet the scouts will swarm Safeco Field. Bedard has not thrown more than 100 innings in a season since 2007. He's at 90 now, so look out.

-- Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey continues to draw interest and Minnesota is expected to deal him.

-- The Marlins are looking to add, not subtract, and do not intend to deal closer Leo Nunez unless blown away with an offer. Florida is moving into a new stadium next season and has not gained near the momentum they had hoped this summer.

-- About that odd timing of Milwaukee acquiring closer Francisco Rodriguez and announcing it just after the All-Star Game ended? Rodriguez's former agent Paul Kinzer had failed to submit proper paperwork for K-Rod's 10-team no-trade list -- Milwaukee was on it -- and with K-Rod having hired Scott Boras recently, Mets GM Sandy Alderson was afraid Boras would correct the oversight. That's why, once the Mets and Brewers agreed to the deal, Alderson wanted it finalized as soon as possible, afraid that if they waited even one more day, Boras would get the list in and K-Rod would have power to scotch the deal.

-- Wonder what's taking so long for the trades to happen this week? Wonder why you read some rumors that turn out to be badly off the trail? Some insight from legendary executive Pat Gillick's Hall of Fame speech on Sunday: "As a young scout I, remember hiding up in trees with binoculars so no other scout would know I was interested in a prospect. I remember the assumed names or clever tactics we all used to get an edge and throw others off the scent."

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Posted on: February 22, 2011 7:07 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays always have been dependent on B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria. But after taking massive losses this winter, especially in Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay is going to be need those two more than ever.

Upton is coming off of a highly disappointing year in which he batted a career-low .237 with 164 strikeouts. Only Detroit's Austin Jackson (170) had more in the AL.

The Rays are bullish on him bouncing back strongly this year, partly because his talent is so rich and partly because they know his character.

"B.J. does a lot of things really well," general manager Andrew Friedman says. "The fact that he had such an incredible year in 2007 (.300, 24 homers, 82 RBI, 22 steals), the expectation bar is extremely high.

"At times, we all get caught up in the 'He's not matching or exceeding that.' But when you just step back and watch what he does do, he brings a lot to a team in terms of what he does defensively, what he does on the bases."

As Friedman notes, Upton is one of only two players last year who had 40 or more stolen bases and 60 or more extra-base hits.

"The other one got $142 million from the Red Sox," the GM says.

Yep, Crawford.

Longoria, a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner, quietly has grown into a leader in just three seasons. That said, he is not looking to force things in that department in this post-Crawford and Pena spring.

"I'm not going to look at myself as the veteran," Longoria said. "I'm going to look at myself as I have every year, come here and work hard and maybe continue to set that precedent or be a leader but not vocally. Mainly based just off of my actions and what I do both on and off the field to prepare myself."

-- Tampa Bay has won two of the past three AL East titles, but this is a completely different challenge this year. Which suits this eclectic bunch just fine. Maddon already has chosen his theme for the season: "Another Way."

"One, you've got to look at our manager," Longoria says. He's a player's manager, a real easy manager to play for. A lot of guys who haven't been here in the past have come in here and feel very comfortable playing for him. In turn, it makes it comfortable for them to play, it's an easy environment.

"In turn, I think that's going to play a big part in how we come together as a team. Everybody understanding that we're all here for a reason and Joe's going to make it easy playing for him. The challenge is there, but the challenge is there every year. We understand that."

Sunblock Day: Starting to sound like a broken record, but simply exquisite. Sun, 80s, no humidity.

Likes: The three signs Maddon has posted on the wall in the clubhouse for the players to soak in. One is from legendary coach John Wooden: "Discipline yourself so no one else has to." Another is from Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve: "Rules cannot take the place of character." And the third is from philosopher Albert Camus: "Integrity has no need of rules." ... Bill Chastain, Rays beat writer for MLB.com, has just had a new paperback novel published, Peachtree Corvette Club. It's available on Amazon. ... Can't wait to see the Hank Steinbrenner-Derek Jeter Visa commercial. Tweeted that the other day and few seemed to get the joke. Remember, Hank's dad one year accused Jeter of staying out too late and next thing you knew, Jeter and George Steinbrenner were doing the conga line through a club in the classic Visa ad?

Dislikes: In a development more rare than an appearance from Halley's Comet, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band are firing up for a tour beginning next month. But they've only announced it a couple of shows at a time. We're up to a month's worth, the first 11 shows. Come on, man. Some of us have schedules to keep and summers to plan! Announce the whole tour already.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter"

-- Taylor Swift, Mine

 

Posted on: February 26, 2009 1:26 pm
 

Something's fishy with the Rays


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- So how's spring training for Tampa Bay in the Rays' new digs in sleepy Port Charlotte, a couple hours' south of their former spring home in St. Petersburg?

"It's made me pick up fishing," Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton says.

Say what?

"Started about a week ago," Upton says. "I'm staying with (pitcher Scott) Kazmir, and we decided we wanted to start fishing.

"So we went to Cabela's and got some fishing rods. They should be in any day."

Upton says he and Kazmir fish the ponds near their apartment complex. The ponds apparently are stocked with bass.

So they take 'em home and filet 'em? Put the fish on the grill?

"Oh, no, we throw them back," Upton says. "We're just chilling out. There's nothing else to do here."

Upton says he had never fished before this spring. But now, he has a new love.

"I heard when he caught his first fish, he was the happiest guy in Florida," Tampa Bay general manager Andrew Friedman says.

Likes: Bruiser, the Boston Red Sox's bulldog. Well, he's not technically the team dog -- he belongs to one of the spring clubhouse attendants. But it's very entertaining the way Bruiser wanders around the Sox complex with coaches and players opening the clubhouse door to let him in and out at will. ... Yep, I could tell I was driving through a remote part of Florida the other day when I saw this bumper sticker on a pickup truck: "My horse bucked off your honor student." ... Shawn Mullins' 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor.

Dislikes: Dippin' Dots, the "ice cream of the future." You see this sold at ballpark concession stands, in malls, and I don't know. Maybe it's the most delicious thing ever. But they've been calling it the "ice cream of the future" now for, like, 20 years. If it truly was the ice cream of the future, wouldn't regular ice cream have been overtaken by now?

Sunblock day? Wonderful. Bright, warm and sunny. Somewhere near 80 degrees.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"I've lost count of the times I given up on you
"But you make such a beautiful wreck, you do
"There's a tavern on the corner called the Milky Way
"And you look so at home there it makes me afraid"

-- Shawn Mullins, Beautiful Wreck

 

 

Posted on: February 26, 2009 1:26 pm
 

Something's fishy with the Rays


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- So how's spring training for Tampa Bay in the Rays' new digs in sleepy Port Charlotte, a couple hours' south of their former spring home in St. Petersburg?

"It's made me pick up fishing," Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton says.

Say what?

"Started about a week ago," Upton says. "I'm staying with (pitcher Scott) Kazmir, and we decided we wanted to start fishing.

"So we went to Cabela's and got some fishing rods. They should be in any day."

Upton says he and Kazmir fish the ponds near their apartment complex. The ponds apparently are stocked with bass.

So they take 'em home and filet 'em? Put the fish on the grill?

"Oh, no, we throw them back," Upton says. "We're just chilling out. There's nothing else to do here."

Upton says he had never fished before this spring. But now, he has a new love.

"I heard when he caught his first fish, he was the happiest guy in Florida," Tampa Bay general manager Andrew Friedman says.

Likes: Bruiser, the Boston Red Sox's bulldog. Well, he's not technically the team dog -- he belongs to one of the spring clubhouse attendants. But it's very entertaining the way Bruiser wanders around the Sox complex with coaches and players opening the clubhouse door to let him in and out at will. ... Yep, I could tell I was driving through a remote part of Florida the other day when I saw this bumper sticker on a pickup truck: "My horse bucked off your honor student." ... Shawn Mullins' 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor.

Dislikes: Dippin' Dots, the "ice cream of the future." You see this sold at ballpark concession stands, in malls, and I don't know. Maybe it's the most delicious thing ever. But they've been calling it the "ice cream of the future" now for, like, 20 years. If it truly was the ice cream of the future, wouldn't regular ice cream have been overtaken by now?

Sunblock day? Wonderful. Bright, warm and sunny. Somewhere near 80 degrees.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"I've lost count of the times I given up on you
"But you make such a beautiful wreck, you do
"There's a tavern on the corner called the Milky Way
"And you look so at home there it makes me afraid"

-- Shawn Mullins, Beautiful Wreck

 

 

Posted on: October 27, 2008 6:09 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2008 7:32 pm
 

Joe Maddon tweaks scuffling Rays lineup

PHILADELPHIA -- Two of his most dependable sluggers buried in an 0-for-29 hole, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon has shuffled his Game 5 lineup as the Rays attempt to push this World Series back to Florida.

The lineup changes for Monday night are not drastic, but Maddon did bump Carlos Pena (0-for-13, six strikeouts) from third to fourth and Evan Longoria (0-for-16 with nine strikeouts) from fourth to fifth.

Left fielder Carl Crawford, meantime, is hitting second (instead of fifth), which pushes center fielder B.J. Upton to third (from second).

Crawford is one of the few players hitting for the Rays, who are batting .187 overall as a team in this World Series. Crawford is hitting .267 with two homers and two RBI.

"It's bumping Carl up as much as anything, too," Maddon said. "I wanted to get Carl up there, and he's been a successful two-place hitter for us. And I wanted to unfreeze those two guys a little bit. The fact that they've had a little bit of problems in the normal slots for both of them, I thought just by giving them a little different perspective today may help."

Earlier this season, Maddon gave Pena a game off when he was slumping. There's no time for that now, though. It's called adjust on the fly. Maddon thinks both Pena and Longoria are pressing, and while the Phillies are making good pitches on them, his theory is that his guys simply are not waiting for what may be given to them.

"I see them getting themselves out more than anything," Maddon said. "I'm not denigrating the Phillies' game plan. I think it's wonderful. I know exactly what they're trying to do. From our perspective, we're permitting them."

How?

"When you're making outs on strikes, your kind of pitch, that's one thing," Maddon continued. "But when you're making outs on their pitches, primarily ... again, it speaks to organizing your strikes on seeing pitches."

 

Posted on: October 26, 2008 2:00 am
 

Phillies win crazy Game 3, take 2-1 lead

PHILADELPHIA -- Goodbye Florida, hello elements.

The nasty Philadelphia weather may not have decided Game 3 Saturday night, but Mother Nature sure made her presence known during the wildest World Series game played in years. Following a 91-minute rain delay and the latest start time in Series history (10:06 p.m.), Philadelphia won it 5-4 on an infield hit that somehow won it in the most crowded infield you'll ever see.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had homered in the second, chopped a bases-loaded roller down the third-base line that charging third baseman Evan Longoria couldn't get to in time. He made a heroic effort, lunging flat on the ground and trying to shovel the baseball toward catcher Dioner Navarro.

He had no chance. Eric Bruntlett slid home ahead of the throw.

And what a scene it was. After J.P. Howell hit Bruntlett with a pitch to lead off the ninth, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon summoned Grant Balfour. Then he pulled right fielder Ben Zobrist into the infield, positioning him up the middle, by second base. That gave the Rays five infielders as they attempted to defend a 4-4 tie and push the game into the 10th.

Balfour intentionally walked both Shane Victorino and Greg Dobbs to load the bases with nobody out. But instead of a double-play grounder, starting with a force at home, Ruiz was able to put the ball where Longoria couldn't get to it.

The end came at 1:47 a.m. and gave the Phillies a two games to one lead in this increasingly close World Series.

The game had nearly turned on one three-batter span in the sixth inning. While finesse artist Jamie Moyer clung to a 2-1 lead and spent most of the evening fooling Rays hitters, he left a pitch up with two out in the sixth. Oops. Longoria drilled it.

But instead of putting the Rays ahead 3-2 -- B.J. Upton was on second base -- a howling wind knocked down what would have been a sure home run at Tropicana Field (and, here, on a not-so-windy evening). Moyer's reaction walking off of the mound following the close call was terrific: Fully extended tongue hanging down toward his chin.

His teammates' reactions were pretty good, too. Chase Utley led off the bottom of the sixth by smashing the ball to right field. Bit of a tailwind in that direction, and gone. Up next Ryan Howard did the same thing, and the back-to-back homers made it 4-1 Phillies.

The wind messing with Longoria looked even more important in the seventh, when Tampa Bay pushed two runs across to pull to within 4-3.

One of those runs, though, should never have scored. Carl Crawford led off the seventh by pushing a bunt down the first-base line. Moyer rushed over and dove to field it, then flipped it with his glove to Howard at first. Howard barehanded the throw ahead of Crawford reaching the bag.

However, first-base umpire Tom Hallion was shielded by Howard and the odd angle of the play and called Crawford safe. Hallion appeared to be watching the first-base bag to see when Crawford crossed and listening for the sound of the ball thudding into the glove. It never came, though, when Howard softly barehanded it.

The Rays tied it in the eighth when Upton led off with an infield single, stole second and third and scored on catcher Ruiz's throwing error.

But an inning later, after Balfour hit Bruntlett to start the ninth, he wild-pitched Bruntlett to second and the Rays' own catching error -- Dioner Navarro threw the ball into center field -- sent Bruntlett to third and positioned the Phils for the win.

 

Posted on: October 22, 2008 1:52 pm
 

And away we go

ST. PETERSBURG -- You're going to hear a lot over these next seven-to-10 days about how the Philadelphia Phillies have an "American League-style lineup."

What that means is that they have the ability to put a lot of runs on the board in a hurry. They're deep and they're powerful. They've got speed and power atop the lineup in Jimmy Rollins. They've got a rugged middle of the lineup with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell.

But here's my question: If the Phillies' lineup is so AL-oriented, then why did they go 4-11 in Interleague Play this season? In five series against AL teams, they didn't win one.

Two of the five AL teams they faced qualified for postseason -- Boston (against whom the Phillies were 1-2) and the Los Angeles Angels (0-3). Three were not -- Oakland (1-2), Texas (1-2) and Toronto (1-2).

This isn't a knock on the Phillies, who are playing their best baseball of the season and easily could win this series if they keep it up. It is an indictment of the NL, which simply still isn't as strong as the AL.

Tampa Bay has an AL-style lineup, too. And center fielder B.J. Upton and third baseman Evan Longoria have combined to wallop 13 home runs and collect 26 RBI so far this postseason.

It's no wonder, then, that one of the main points of the report turned in by Philadelphia scouts for the Phillies to digest going into this World Series is that the pitching staff must keep the ball in the ballpark against Rays hitters. The Phillies think they can be successful if their pitchers stay away from predictable pitch selection patterns, which would keep Longoria, Upton, Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and the rest of the Tampa Bay hitters off-balance.

If Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Co. can establish themselves, it's the Phillies who could win this series with the long ball. They ranked second in the majors in homers, trailing only the Chicago White Sox.

The keys to this series, for me, are these:

-- Game 1. Philadelphia has not played a game in a week. Similar layoffs did no favors for Colorado (eight days) in last year's World Series or Detroit (six days) in 2006. If the Phillies' hitters have their timing Wednesday night, that will be a terrific sign for them. If they look lost against Scott Kazmir, it could be a sign of rust, and it could be a scramble for Philadelphia to turn it around.

-- The bullpens. With complete games having gone the way of the stock market, so many postseason games turn now somewhere between the sixth and eighth innings. We know Philadelphia is air-tight late with Ryan Madson (who handles the eighth innings) and closer Brad Lidge. The wild card is Tampa Bay phenom David Price. The Phillies saw what the rest of us saw in the ALCS: Rays relievers Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell are beginning to show wear and tear. That could leave Tampa Bay vulnerable -- or it could leave an effective Price as a breakout star.

-- Jamie Moyer. Philadelphia's Game 3 starter has gotten clobbered in the postseason. In two games, against Milwaukee and the Dodgers, he's served up eight runs and 10 hits in only 5 1/3 innings. He didn't make it out of the second in his NLCS start in Los Angeles. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel says he never considered not starting Moyer in the World Series, and the soft-tossing lefty is not a charity case: He led Philadelphia's staff during the season with 16 wins. But finesse pitchers are exceptionally risky in the postseason. There are no easy outs, and if a guy's touch is off even by a little bit ... look out.

There will be a harsh glare on Tampa Bay's kids, but they've responded to every challenge this season and I think they will respond again. None of the past four World Series has lasted longer than five games, and three of them have been sweeps.

I think this goes a bit longer, and I think the AL superiority again will be evident.

Tampa Bay in 6.

 

 
 
 
 
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