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Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton shows renewed opposite-field power with two homers to rightfield

PORT CHARLOTTE — In one way, CF B.J. Upton was right about the two home runs he hit in Saturday's 8-5 win-streak-stopping loss to the Marlins: "Too bad they don't mean anything; it's spring training."

But looking at it the opposite way, they meant a lot.

Hitting with power to the right side of the field, as he did twice Saturday (the first an estimated 430-foot blast), is a big part of Upton's game and something he admittedly hasn't done as much as he could, and should.

"That's the biggest thing, that they were the other way," Upton said. "It's kind of what got me here. The last couple of years I got away from that. I'm working to get back that way. … Just to be able to hit the ball that way with some authority feels good."

Only two of Upton's 11 homers last season were to right or right-center; 10 of 33 homers were the previous two seasons.

"That's very important," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's always been one of, maybe his biggest strong point, coming up as a youngster. When he's lined up and he's hitting the ball effectively to that side, then he starts hitting the ball well to left-center. He's not really a pull hitter; he's more of a gap-to-gap kind of a guy, so those are really good at-bats, and that's a really good sign."

Medical matters: C Dioner Navarro said his bruised left thumb felt fine after taking batting practice swings left- and right-handed and playing catch. He plans to test it catching pitches today and hopes to return to action Tuesday. … OF Matt Joyce said his strained right elbow felt fine taking full-speed swings, but he didn't try throwing, which is when he felt pain Thursday. Neither Joyce nor Maddon had a timetable for his return.

Good Garza: No. 2 starter RHP Matt Garza became the first Ray to work five innings, allowing three hits (including a Brett Carroll homer), walking two and striking out four while throwing 69 pitches. "Just trying to work on certain pitches, certain counts, trying to see where I can use and can't use," he said. "Today's another day at the office, just trying to get better for the season."

Game details: The Rays' (9-2) team-best winning streak came to an end, primarily due to an uncaught popup by C Alvin Colina and lost-in-the-sun fly ball (CF Fernando Perez) that led to a four-run Marlins seventh. … RHP Grant Balfour bore the loss and the increase in his ERA (from 6.00 to 14.73). … DH Hank Blalock was 0-for-3 with a walk in his Rays debut but hit the ball hard twice.

Miscellany: Three more players were reassigned to minor-league camp: LHPs Jason Cromer and R.J. Swindle, who have been sidelined by injuries, and C Craig Albernaz. … LHP J.P. Howell and RHP Winston Abreu are set to make their spring debuts March 22.

Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton shows renewed opposite-field power with two homers to rightfield 03/13/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 14, 2010 12:32am]
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