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B.J. Upton unaffected by trade rumors, hopes to stay with Tampa Bay Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Given the events of the past 10 days, the sight of B.J. Upton's Tropicana Field locker emptied out Tuesday afternoon was only slightly startling.

Upton, it turned out, did want a change of scenery: moving across the room to the locker he had during his career-best 2007 season and that had previously been occupied by Dioner Navarro.

But as the first of what are likely to be many trade rumors swirled — a Twitter post from Peter Gammons about a potential deal involving Seattle's Cliff Lee — Upton said he "definitely" doesn't want to leave the Rays.

"I couldn't pick a better 24 guys to be around," he said. "It's where I started; they've been a big part of my success. I don't want to go anywhere else. But if it happens, it happens — that's what has to be done."

Recent events have put Upton more in the spotlight, as he has been criticized for a lack of hustle, involved in a dugout altercation with teammate Evan Longoria, held out of the lineup and made his feelings about being benched known. He returned to the lineup Tuesday but went 0-for-4, dropping his average to .224.

All that might lead to even more rumors, but Upton said he won't let the chatter bother him.

"You know it's coming every July whether it's me or anybody else in this clubhouse," he said. "There's always talks about it. So you can't look into it, you can't let it affect you, you've just got to go out there and keep playing. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I'm going to do my job either way."

Manager Joe Maddon said that he hopes Upton doesn't allow this rumor, or any others, to become an issue.

"I just hope he takes it in a positive way," Maddon said. "I don't know how those things actually get started. He's a young fellow, and you would think it would bother a young guy more than a veteran type, and then it is compounded by the more recent events, and I understand all of that, but there's nothing I can really add to it or tell him because there's nothing from our end regarding that that's true."

C.C. UPDATE: Principal owner Stuart Sternberg raved about the play of All-Star LF Carl Crawford but didn't offer much hope for keeping the free-agent-to-be beyond this season. Though Sternberg said "remains to be seen" if the Rays could afford to keep Crawford, he acknowledged it will be "difficult."

FAMILIAR FACE: The Rays didn't know exactly what to expect from rookie starter Felix Doubront. But OF Gabe Kapler had an idea: He was Doubront's manager at Class A Greenville in 2007 during his brief retirement. "He's a different pitcher now,'' said Kapler, who walked twice and lined out.

SHOUSE IN THE HOUSE: LH reliever Brian Shouse was brought back on a minor-league deal with an eye toward providing some late-season, even September, help. "That could be beneficial to us," Maddon said. Shouse, idle since being released by Boston in spring training, will first rehab a knee sprain with the GCL team in Port Charlotte.

MISCELLANY: With Jason Bartlett's third-inning swipe of second, the Rays reached 100 steals before the All-Star break for a third straight season. … The Rays are 14-13 in one-run games and an AL East-best 21-10 vs. division foes. … RHP Rafael Soriano's ninth-inning walk was his first since May 15, a span of 18 appearances. He also became the first Ray to record saves on four consecutive days. … C Kelly Shoppach also switched lockers, moving into the one occupied previously by no-longer-here Pat Burrell and Hank Blalock. … Maddon said — for now — he'll rotate Upton, Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez in the leadoff spot. … Advanced Class A Charlotte RHP Joe Cruz was named FSL pitcher of the week after going 1-0 with 14 scoreless innings. … Boston ace Josh Beckett, who has been on the DL with a lower back strain since May 19, threw a simulated game against rookie-level players at the Trop.

Times staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report.

B.J. Upton unaffected by trade rumors, hopes to stay with Tampa Bay Rays 07/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 7, 2010 1:21am]

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