Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton surprised, disappointed to be benched for matchup reasons

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon had his reasons for not starting CF B.J. Upton on Monday, primarily Upton's 1-for-13 career mark against Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka compared with four other Rays who Maddon felt needed to play.

But the implication was potentially much larger, as Maddon showed he was now willing to bench the struggling Upton — hitting .228 overall — based primarily on matchups and statistics to get others in the lineup, such as Matt Joyce and Willy Aybar.

"I thought I was an everyday player," Upton said. "I don't know if I'm subject to matchups now or not. I'm not going to get too bent out of shape about it, but obviously I want to be out there every day."

Upton — surprised, "definitely, without a doubt" to not be in the lineup — went into Maddon's office Monday afternoon to ask why. Maddon told Upton it was the numbers and told reporters it was a matter of wanting to include others such as Ben Zobrist (1-for-8 vs. Matsuzaka), Joyce (1-for-4 with a homer), Sean Rodriguez (1-for-3) and Aybar (2-for-6).

"We have this nice little problem going on right now," Maddon said. "The fact that Matt Joyce is up, he presents different possibilities. Willy's swinging the bat well right now; he's filled in very nicely in the four-hole. So we have a lot of moving parts right now, but I chose to do that (Monday night)."

Maddon also said he told Upton, who pinch-ran in the seventh and ended up scoring the winner, he would start the remaining six games on the homestand.

But Upton, speaking quietly with the disappointment obvious, said he wasn't sure where he stood: "I don't know. … It is what it is."

The unexpected benching continued what has been an eventful stretch for Upton as he was criticized for a lack of hustle and involved in a dugout altercation with 3B Evan Longoria on June 27, didn't start the next game, missed the next three games with a sore right quad then returned to the lineup Saturday and got two hits Sunday.

Asked if he still was an everyday player, Upton said: "I don't know. I have no idea. I could not tell you."

SUPER CARL: Maddon had the best description of LF Carl Crawford's dazzling running and all-out diving catch on the centerfield side of left-center. "He's faster than a speeding baseball," Maddon said. "He just out-ran that thing."

Crawford doesn't like to rank his greatest grabs, saying "they're all good catches," but said he felt pretty good about making this one: "I wasn't sure, but I like my chances going into the dive."

Maddon lauded him for athletic and technical merit (angle, timing, speed) and said he felt "there was one guy who could have caught it and we had him in leftfield."

STARRY-EYED: All-Stars Crawford, Longoria and LHP David Price were starting to make plans for their trip to Anaheim for the July 13 All-Star Game.

Price's contingent of 12 will include family (mom, dad, two brothers, sister-in-law, niece, nephew) and some special friends — the parents of Tyler Morrissey, one of Price's best friends who was killed in an April 2008 car accident.

"It'll be great for them to be around," he said. "They'll probably enjoy it more than I will."

Maddon continued to lobby for closer RHP Rafael Soriano (22 of 23 saves, 1.42 ERA) to be added to the AL team.

MINOR MATTERS: All-Star Futures Game-bound RHP Jeremy Hellickson improved to 11-2, 2.21 with a solid six-inning outing in Triple-A Durham's 11-0 win over Gwinnett. Dan Johnson homered twice, giving him an International League-leading 22 homers and 75 RBIs.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said there likely will be changes in the rotation post All-Star break: "What we'd like to do is give some people more time going into the second half." … LHP Brian Shouse, who was with the Rays in 2009, signed a minor-league deal and will first rehab a knee sprain with the GCL Rays. … There was a moment of silence for fallen Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.

Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton surprised, disappointed to be benched for matchup reasons 07/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 1:15am]

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