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Rays' Upton could return to corner spot

ST. PETERSBURG — When CF B.J. Upton makes his expected return to the lineup today or Sunday, there's a chance he could be playing rightfield.

Upton, who has missed 10 games with a strained left quadriceps, reported no pain after running the bases Friday afternoon. But manager Joe Maddon said depending on Upton's comfort level, a temporary move to a corner outfield spot could ease him back into the lineup.

Fernando Perez has made nine starts in center, hitting two homers and playing well defensively. Upton said he hasn't played a corner outfield spot since 2007 spring training. He has started just one game in leftfield, in 2004.

"It's a little different. I haven't played there all year," Upton said. "The reads are a little bit different off the bat. I think it'd be a little tough, but I don't know."

Maddon said it's up to Upton to gauge his range during pregame warmups before any position switch.

"I said, 'If you feel confident you can just go out and roam all centerfield, I'm good with that,' " Maddon said. " 'If you feel you'd like to cut down the distance a little bit, we'll put you on the corner to begin with until you're ready just to get you back in the lineup.' "

MINOR MATTERS: The Rays announced their minor-league awards Friday, and Perez was named the player of the year and LHP David Price the pitcher of the year. C Matt Spring won the Erik Walker Community Champion Award.

Perez said he was both honored and "surprised," considering it wasn't his "strongest season." He battled a spring hip injury then hit .288 and stole 43 bases with Triple-A Durham.

But Perez, a September callup, said the bigger reward has been playing a key role for the Rays.

"That's a bigger deal to me than getting the award," he said. "Awards are for my mom. She likes stuff like that."

The other winners: INF Dan Johnson and RHP Mitch Talbot (Durham); INF Chris Nowak and RHP Wade Davis (Double-A Montgomery); OF Ryan Royster and RHP Jeremy Hellickson (Class A Vero Beach); OF Kyeong Kang and RHP Nick Barnese (Class A Hudson Valley); OF Reid Fronk and RHP Jesse Darcy (Class A Columbus); INF Elias Otero and LHP Matt Moore (rookie Princeton); OF Cesar Guillen and RHP Juan Wilsino (Dominican summer league); and C Alejandro Torres and RHP Deivis Mavares (Venezuelan summer league).

BACK TO NORMAL: LHP Scott Kazmir, tonight's starter, said he discovered on video minor flaws in his delivery after allowing a career-worst nine runs on six hits — four of them home runs — in a 13-5 loss to Boston on Monday.

"It's easier if you can just identify … what happened," he said. "I looked at the tape and saw there were a couple of things I didn't realize I was doing. I was maybe doing just a little bit extra. I don't know … what made me do that. But after I threw my bullpen (session), everything felt like it was back to normal."

thank EVAN: Evan Lon­goria on Thursday became the first rookie third baseman since Eddie Mathews (Boston Braves, Sept, 27, 1952) to have a three-homer game.

MISCELLANY: Former Rays OF prospect Jason Pridie pinch hit for another ex-Ray, Delmon Young, in the seventh. Both were acquired in the offseason trade that included RHP Matt Garza and SS Jason Bartlett. … RHP Jeff Niemann made his first appearance since his callup, throwing a scoreless 11/3 innings. … Maddon said C Dioner Navarro likely would get a day off today or Sunday. … About 5,000 tickets remain for today's game, and Sunday's game is sold out.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith @sptimes.com

Rays' Upton could return to corner spot 09/19/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 20, 2008 10:48pm]
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