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B.J. Upton's Braves career is off to a 'late' start

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

NEW YORK -- It's true, as Braves hitting coach Greg Walker pointed out, that many players get off to bad starts after signing big free-agent contracts.

But how many start off as bad as B.J. Upton has with the Braves?

He's gotten a little bit of a break because his brother started so hot, and because his team is in first place. He wasn't even the most talked-about struggling hitter at Citi Field on Friday, because Mets fans were too busy obsessing about Ike Davis.

Davis (.145 entering play Friday) didn't sign the biggest free-agent contract in club history. Upton (.153) did.

The Braves knew, when they gave Upton that five-year, $75.25-million contract last November, that he's a streaky hitter who can look very bad at times. They couldn't expect .153 with a .503 OPS on Memorial Day weekend.

"The first two months, he's just been consistently late," said Walker.

To be clear, Walker meant late at the plate, not late to work. In fact, he praised Upton's work ethic, and expressed confidence that the work is beginning to pay off.

"It's getting better," he said. "He has a lot of moving parts in his swing, and it's about getting to the fight on time."

They're working on it. Upton's track record says that it will get better, and three hits (including a home run) in eight at-bats Tuesday and Wednesday suggest that maybe it is.

So far, though, it hasn't been good. So far, of the 167 hitters with enough at-bats to qualify, Davis is the only guy in the big leagues with a worse batting average than Upton (and his on-base percentage and OPS aren't a whole lot better).

The Mets have managed to let the Davis story consume them. The Braves, because they've been winning, have kept the Upton story from overwhelming them.

But they sure would feel better if he'd get a few more hits.

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