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B.J. Upton quickly rejoins Tampa Bay Rays after birth of first child

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The decision to leave his newborn baby and girlfriend to fly across the country and rejoin the Rays was so difficult for B.J. Upton that the first time he went to Tampa airport on Monday night, he turned around and walked back out.

Having missed the Monday morning birth by about 20 minutes despite hiring a private jet from Southern California, Upton wanted to spend at least some quality time with Riley Emanuel, so he went back to St. Joseph's Hospital for the night then boarded a Tuesday morning flight, through Dallas, back to Ontario, Calif.

"I hadn't seen him awake," Upton said. "I finally got to see him and hold him a little bit."

With just two games remaining on the road trip, Upton could have chosen to stay in Tampa and play again Friday. But after being assured his girlfriend and new son were healthy, he felt an obligation to rejoin his team.

"These guys, we're here together," Upton said. "Obviously home is where I wanted to be, but we're going back home (tonight) and she's in good hands. She has her family there and my family is there, they reassured me that they had everything under control. My dad actually called me before I took off and said, 'I'm proud of you, you're doing the right thing to go back.' That made me feel a little bit better about it, and I'm here."

Several players and manager Joe Maddon said they were impressed by Upton's dedication to the team.

"It shows me a lot of maturity," Maddon said. "Both acts — going there for the baby and then coming back for his teammates. We really do appreciate it. It's about the maturity process."

Said Carlos Peña: "For him to fly back shows you he wants to be here for his brothers."

DIFFERENT LOOK: As expected, Peña, in a 1-for-40 slump, was not in the starting lineup, with Maddon saying he was "pressing.'' A bit surprising was who was, as Ben Zobrist made his third career start at first base, with Sean Rodriguez at second and Willy Aybar at DH. Maddon's thinking was it allowed him to keep Aybar in the whole game and have more late-game options for other moves. Peña entered in the seventh at first base, with Zobrist moving to right.

ABOUT MONDAY NIGHT: There was an interesting and somewhat telling scene in the clubhouse after the Rays, having rallied from a 4-0 deficit with two outs in the ninth to force extra innings, lost 5-4 in 11.

The key play in the Angels' winning "rally" was a wild pitch by reliever Grant Balfour, allowing Kendry Morales, who'd singled and moved up on a bunt, to go from second to third then score on a sac fly.

Rookie C John Jaso went up to Balfour, in view of reporters, and took full blame for the ball getting by him: "It's my fault." When told of the exchange, Maddon said that spoke well for Jaso.

"That tells me he belongs here," Maddon said, raving about all the good Jaso did behind and at the plate (three hits). "The fact that he's accountable for it and he told his teammate that — he belongs a Ray."

MISCELLANY: Cuban 1B/OF Leslie Anderson got his first hit in his second U.S. pro game, a third-inning single at advanced Class A Charlotte. … A reunion with C Shawn Riggans, released from the Mets' minor leagues, seems unlikely because the Rays don't have room. … LHP J.P. Howell (shoulder weakness) had another good bullpen session Tuesday and will advance to batting practice Friday. … OF Matt Joyce (right elbow strain) played catch with no pain and could start a rehab next week.

B.J. Upton quickly rejoins Tampa Bay Rays after birth of first child 05/12/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 2:27am]
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