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Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton has eventful birthday

ST. PETERSBURG — CF B.J. Upton turned 25 on Friday and found himself the center of attention on two eventful plays.

In the second, Upton was caught stealing after getting in a rundown between second and third. He tried to dodge a tag by Elvis Andrus but was called out for running out of the baseline.

Upton said he didn't leave the baseline.

"(Andrus) was coming at me, and I kind of stopped," Upton said. "And when he got there to tag me, I basically just did a pivot and moved."

Manager Joe Maddon, who discussed the play with umpires, backed Upton.

"I thought it was a bad call," he said.

In the eighth, Upton climbed the wall in an attempt to rob Taylor Teagarden of a home run. But as he jumped, the ball hit the D-ring catwalk (making it a home run). The ball bounced back and hit him in the palm as he hung from the wall.

The umpires discussed the play, but crew chief Tim McClelland said they didn't think replay was necessary.

"It hit one of those wires up there, a supporting wire," he told a pool reporter.

Said LHP Scott Kazmir: "I looked at the baseball, and there was a huge gash on it. So I knew it hit something."

Perfect fit: When Jason Bartlett was moved to the leadoff spot a couple of weeks ago, he insisted it wouldn't be too big of an adjustment.

Bartlett said he considered his previous spot, ninth, akin to a second leadoff hitter who sets the table for the top of the lineup.

"To me," he said, "all it really is is another (at-bat)."

Turns out, Bartlett was right.

He entered Friday hitting .385 (30-for-78) from the leadoff spot with a .443 on-base percentage, .641 slugging percentage and 17 runs scored in 18 games.

In the first inning Friday, Bartlett singled, stole second, advanced to third when Teagarden's throw went into centerfield and scored on a groundout by Carl Crawford.

In the second, Bartlett drove in Gabe Gross from third with a perfectly placed bunt to the right of the mound.

Maddon said Bartlett's pitch selection has come back.

"He's not expanding his zone nearly as much," he said.

EIGHT-MEN OUT: Though Maddon acknowledged his eight-member bullpen can lead to precarious situations by leaving a three-player bench, he said he plans to stick with it for the time being, possibly until the rosters expand Sept. 1.

Maddon said he is doing it because the bullpen is such a "matchup-orientated group," with specialists such as LHPs Randy Choate and Brian Shouse and RHP Chad Bradford.

Maddon pointed out how such relievers could be a factor against opponents such as Yankees, who boast many switch-hitters.

WELCOME BACK: Rangers third-base coach Dave Anderson is a Gibbs High grad but headed to the University of Memphis before the Trop was built. So Friday was his first visit under the roof. And his parents, who live part time in St. Petersburg in the house in which he grew up, were planning to be in the stands watching.

MISCELLANY: 2B Ben Zobrist hit his 22nd homer, breaking Jose Cruz's club record for a switch-hitter set in 2004. … Gainesville Buchholz CF LeVon Washington, the Rays' first-round pick who didn't sign, will play at Chipola Junior College with plans to re-enter the draft next year, the Gainesville Sun reported. … 2B Akinori Iwamura continued his rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham, walking three times. … The Rays said LHP Darin Downs, who was hit by a line drive Monday in Montgomery, continues to improve but is expected to remain hospitalized until next week. … C Dioner Navarro will sign autographs and take photos from noon to 1 p.m. today at Lennar Homes Verandahs Community, 12449 Chenwood Ave., Hudson.

Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton has eventful birthday 08/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 22, 2009 6:08am]
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