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Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton shows off some aggressive play on basepaths

B.J. Upton scores easily in the fourth inning after taking off from third when Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia dropped a third strike on Sean Rodriguez and had to throw to first.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

B.J. Upton scores easily in the fourth inning after taking off from third when Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia dropped a third strike on Sean Rodriguez and had to throw to first.

DUNEDIN — At times, just getting CF B.J. Upton to run hard has been an accomplishment.

In Sunday's 9-3 loss, he showed a glimpse of what's possible when he puts his blazing speed to work, hustling to stretch a single into a double, then breaking from third and scoring when Blue Jays C J.P. Arencibia threw to first after a dropped third strike.

"Loved it," Rays manager Joe Maddon. "All those little things on the bases matter. … Those reads, those aggressive reads, make a huge difference in winning one-run games. We talk about it every day. So I'm pleased that he's doing it."

Upton said it's part an overall effort to be more aggressive on the bases.

"Definitely, you've got to take advantage of every situation," Upton said. "The main thing is score as many runs as possible."

Upton has talked with bench coach Dave Martinez about trying to steal third more often — he did it a team-record 12 times last season — and has his sights on his first 50-steal season.

"That's the plan," Upton said. "I'm going to try to get there."

LONGO OUT: 3B Evan Longoria was scratched from the lineup Sunday due to cramping and dehydration issues that first surfaced Saturday, leading to his early departure. With the team off today, Longoria said it made more sense to rest, though he participated in pregame drills.

"I came in with the intent to play today, but I felt dehydrated (Saturday) and the same thing today, so I'll just drink lots of fluids and take the off day and be back (Tuesday)," Longoria said. "I told Joe if it was Day 1 or Day 100 of the season, I'm playing. We'd probably just throw an IV in at that point and get hydrated quick. … It's just one of those ailment type things, and I just have to let it pass."

PITCHING OUT: RHP James Shields pitched — and pitched well — in a minor-league intrasquad game Sunday rather than face the division rival Blue Jays, and he will work in a minor-league game again Friday rather than face the Red Sox. David Price will do the same Thursday instead of facing the Yankees.

"We play these guys so often," Maddon said. "Just trying to hide our guys a little bit against the American League (East) teams."

SHIELDS UP: Shields went five innings, allowing three hits and an unearned run while striking out four with no walks, throwing 62 pitches then 10 more in the bullpen, concentrating on his offspeed pitches. "I felt really good — I seem to be getting stronger and stronger every outing," Shields said. "If you have no walks on a day you throw a lot of offspeed pitches, that's a good sign." … RHP Chris Archer, whom the Rays recently clocked at 97 mph, threw three scoreless innings in the same game, striking out three.

GAME DETAILS: The Rays (6-9-1) got down early when RHP Chris Bootcheck, falling behind repeatedly in counts, gave up four runs in the first two innings, and didn't make it much of a game. … LF Manny Ramirez was hit by RHP Brandon Morrow in his first at-bat but stayed in. … 1B Casey Kotchman made a tough catch of a popup. … RHP Cory Wade gave up a long home run to Jose Bautista.

MISCELLANY: RHP Jeff Niemann is scheduled to throw in a minor-league intrasquad game today in Port Charlotte while the rest of the team enjoys the only off day of the spring. … After losing LHP Cesar Cabral on waivers to Toronto, Maddon said the Rays liked his arm but couldn't have met the Rule 5 requirements of keeping him on the roster: "I see a 22-year-old kid that's probably not ready for the big leagues but has a nice future. … It wasn't going to happen with us." … RHP Jeremy Hellickson, impressive Friday in his one-inning spring debut, will make his first start on Tuesday. … The Hot Stove radio show airs at 6 tonight on 620-AM.

Staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton shows off some aggressive play on basepaths 03/13/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 13, 2011 10:30pm]

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