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Centerfielder B.J. Upton returns to Tampa Bay Rays

Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton, making his season debut, runs to first on a second-inning groundout.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton, making his season debut, runs to first on a second-inning groundout.

ST. PETERSBURG — CF B.J. Upton returned to the Rays' lineup Friday night, confident the back soreness that had sidelined him since a mid-March outfield collision is behind him.

But Upton, activated from the disabled list, said he still has work to do at the plate after going 0-for-3 against the Twins and not hitting the ball out of the infield in his season debut.

"I was all over the place," Upton said. "But it's good to get that first one out of the way so now I can relax and just go play."

Manager Joe Maddon said Upton looked good running and throwing.

C/OF Stephen Vogt was optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room for Upton.

Upton was just excited to be back.

"This is where I wanted to be the whole time," Upton said. "Unfortunately, I had to do what I had to do to get back. But now that's all behind me. I'm ready to chip in any way I can to help this team win."

Upton missed more time than he originally envisioned after he collided with LF Desmond Jennings on March 14 against the Marlins. But Upton, who went 3-for-21 in seven rehabilitation games with Class A Charlotte and Class AA Montgomery, said the cautious long-term approach was the right one.

Maddon said Upton, who hit seventh Friday, likely will be lower in the lineup for a while to take pressure off him and could be given an off day during this homestand.

"I've still got a little bit of work to do," Upton said. "But at the same time, this is a situation I've dealt with before. So I have a good idea of what I have to do. It's not going to happen overnight. But do I anticipate it taking a while? No."

Upton said he and Jennings were quick to vow such a collision wouldn't be repeated.

"That day in the training room — that happens no more, we agreed," Upton said.

NEW GUY: 1B/OF Brandon Allen, claimed off waivers from the A's on Thursday, will join the Rays today. To make room for him on the roster, SS Reid Brignac was sent to Triple A after Friday's game.

Maddon said they need to get Brignac steady at-bats because he "has a ways to go to fulfill his offensive potential." But Maddon understood why Brignac, hitting .118 in eight games, didn't take the news well. Brignac left Tropicana Field before the media was allowed in the clubhouse.

"He's a wonderful, respectful young man … He's just frustrated with the situation," Maddon said. "But I also believe he's going to work his way through it."

MEDICAL MATTERS: C Jose Lobaton (shoulder) said he was relieved that an MRI exam on Monday revealed just inflammation and is encouraged with how he is feeling.

He said he hopes to begin throwing in two to three days and get back to playing, which likely will include a rehab assignment.

"They don't think it's going to be long," Lobaton said.

RHP Kyle Farnsworth (elbow) is improving as well. He said the inflammation is gone and he hopes to begin throwing in the next week.

Still his bad: The league declined to change the official scorer's ruling of an error on 3B Evan Longoria on a ball hit by Blue Jays C J.P. Arencibia on Tuesday. Longoria still has three errors for the game.

HELPING HAND: Because their 2-year-old son, GoGo, has been diagnosed with autism, INF Sean Rodriguez, wife Gisele and several members of the family are excited to participate in today's Walk Now for Autism Speaks event at 10:30 a.m. at Raymond James Stadium.

"I won't be walking. I'll be running," Rodriguez said, smiling. "Running after my little man."

For details on the event, go to walknowforautismspeaks.org.

Centerfielder B.J. Upton returns to Tampa Bay Rays 04/20/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 21, 2012 1:33am]

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