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Upton dropped to seventh in order

19

July

Upton_2 In an attempt to take some pressure off a slumping B.J. Upton, manager Joe Maddon moved the star centerfielder down in the order from his third spot to seventh.

Maddon said he felt Upton, who is 8-for-42 (.190) in his last 11 games, was pressing too much at the plate. Maddon said it was just a temporary thing for Upton, whom he said has skill that is "unlimited," but just wanted him to "have a good time" out there.

"He's been trying to work on some new things and I know its going to work," Maddon said. "But right now I just think he's applying way too much on himself, and that's exactly the conversation I had with him, just 'Listen, back off a bit. I want to take a little bit of the stress off you.....He's definitely a middle of the order batting guy. He's gonna be back up in third, fourth, fifth, whatever, that's where he's always going to hit in a major league lineup. But for right now I thought it'd be appropriate to take a little of the heat off of him."   

Maddon spoke with Upton today about the decision, which he said Upton took well.

"It's his move," Upton said. "Obviously, I'm not swinging the bat well right now."

In other pre-game news, closer Troy Percival said his meeting with Dr. Koco Eaton Friday went well, and he showed no problems today throwing 10 pitches and fielding balls from the mound, covering first base without any limping.

Maddon said he plans to talk to Percival again before deciding, but it appears the 38-year-old closer is very close to a return.

*As reported in today's Times, SS Jason Bartlett's next test in his rehab of a right knee sprain will run the bases Monday or Tuesday, but Maddon said it is possible Bartlett could do a rehab assignment before returning. However, he said that hasn't been discussed yet.

Some interesting early batting practice this afternoon at the Trop, as MC Hammer - who will perform a post-game concert tonight - took some hacks in the batting cage.

Hammer, who spent several years in his childhood as the A's bat boy, received the moniker of "Hammer" from Reggie Jackson, who said he looked liked Hammerin Hank Aaron.

Well, there were no homers Saturday, but Hammer did hit two off the wall.

The Rays will hope to regain their hitting form tonight against the Jays; Tampa Bay just snapped its seven-game losing streak with a clutch, two-out, two-run homer by Ben Zobrist, but will have their  hands full against Jays ace Roy Halladay tonight.

Matt Garza will pitch tonight for the Rays, who find themselves in first place by a half-game over the Red Sox...

(Pictured: B.J. Upton. Times photo -- Edmund D. Fountain. Click to enlarge.)

RAYS

Iwamura, 2b

Crawford, lf

Pena, 1b

Hinske, rf

Longoria, 3b

Floyd, dh

Upton, cf

Navarro, c

Zobrist, ss

Garza, P

JAYS
Inglett, 2b

Scutaro, ss

Rios, cf

Stairs, dh

Barajas, c

Overbay, 1b

Rolen, 3b

Wilkerson, rf

Lind, lf

Halladay, p

-- JOE SMITH

joesmith@sptimes.com

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:37am]

    

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