Upton's bat is rewarding Rays' patience


May 06, 2007|By Compiled from interviews and other newspapers' reports.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays just wouldn't allow themselves to give up on B.J. Upton, even though he struggled in the infield, couldn't crack a crowded outfield and batted only .251 in two limited big league stints.

Good thing for the Rays.

Upton, the second overall pick in the 2002 draft, was leading the American League with a .381 average heading into Friday. Just 22, he also was among the league leaders in on-base percentage and slugging and led the Rays in RBIs and was tied for the lead in homers.

"He's just swinging the bat with a lot more force than he did at any point last year," Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's a thin, wiry young man, but he has serious power."

He also still has some issues defensively. Expected to play shortstop, he was too erratic there for the majors, was moved to third and rumored for the outfield before he ended up at second base this season. He has made eight errors, but the team thinks he can settle in there.

"We wanted for him to show us what his best position would be and not try to force him into a spot and try to force him into being this icon that he was," Maddon said. "The biggest thing was that I wanted him to become the offensive threat he once had been and then find out what his best defensive position was. So far it's kind of taken shape. We'll see how it all plays out."

Is the masseur next?

The New York Yankees may be suffering through one of the worst starts in their history, but they aren't suffering hamstring injuries to key players without getting retribution.

Last week, they fired first-year strength coach Marty Miller after four key Yankees - outfielders Hideki Matsui and pitchers Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and rookie Phil Hughes after his stellar debut - blew out hamstrings since spring training.

"At the end of the day, we've had so many hamstring injuries, and that's something you can't deny," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "It got to the point where the perception is that there's a problem."

Miller, an education consultant with the National Academy of Sports Medicine who had worked in the minor leagues from 1995-1997, was doomed from the start. His official title was director of performance enhancement, and we all know performance enhancers no longer have a place in baseball.

Good call on Surhoff

The Orioles announced Thursday that B.J. Surhoff has been chosen for induction into the club's Hall of Fame. Surhoff, who spent 7 1/2 seasons with the Orioles, was a fan favorite.

From a media perspective, though, he wasn't the easiest to deal with. He was a sarcastic eye-roller who had a habit of repeating every question asked to him before he'd give an answer.

But it was impossible to cover him on a daily basis and not have the utmost respect for his work ethic, intensity and brutal honesty. Some surely have matched him, but no Oriole had a bigger heart or loved the game more.

Frequent flyer miles

In a span of about 72 hours, outfielder Ryan Langerhans was traded from the East Coast to the West Coast and back East again. On Sunday, the Atlanta Braves dealt him to the Oakland Athletics for cash considerations. He spent two games with the A's and then was sent to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Chris Snelling on Wednesday.

Give Langerhans credit. The 27-year-old defensive specialist didn't burn any bridges in his two days in Oakland. He actually told reporters: "I enjoyed my time here."

"You've almost got to laugh," Langerhans said. "You never see anything like that."

Quote of the week

"I'm too short. The next time I'm going to wear high heels."

Philadelphia Phillies infielder Abraham Nunez, who jumped but came up short on Miguel Cabrera's line drive that broke up Jamie Moyer's potential no-hitter last week. Nunez is considerably shorter than his listed 5 feet 11.

Quick hits

Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who had 46 homers and 41 stolen bases for the Nationals last year, had no homers and two stolen bases this April. No need to worry, though. He had two homers in his first 10 May at-bats. ... Talk about lean times in Kansas City. Kauffman Stadium workers accidentally set off fireworks in the first inning Wednesday after the Royals' Ross Gload grounded into a double play. ... San Diego catchers threw out just three of the first 31 potential base stealers against them this season. Wonder if they yearn for the days of Mike Piazza behind the plate?

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