Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton has breakout game

ST. PETERSBURG — CF B.J. Upton has been feeling better about his swing for the past week or so. Tuesday, he looked it.

Upton had three hits — as many as in his previous nine games — and fell a double short of the cycle, homering for the first time in seven weeks.

"That was a nice little moment for him,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "It's all about confidence. If he just gets his confidence going right now, and gets that feeling, and he goes out there and knows he can drive a ball, it's going to make all the difference in the world.''

Upton, who increased his average to .240, said the key is forgetting what has happened and focusing on what can happen: "I've been in the cage with (coach) Steve Henderson figuring it out. … I like the way I feel up there right now. I have for the past week or so, and I knew it was just going to take some time to get it going.''

DYE JOB: Maddon certainly caught the attention of his players when he showed up with his hair dyed, deciding to go prematurely black in advance of next week's Ring of Fire Johnny Cash-themed road trip.

"I didn't recognize him — twice," said SS Jason Bartlett.

"I didn't know it was him," DH Pat Burrell said. "He had his back turned and I recognized his shirt and I was like, 'No way.' "

Maddon's hair is naturally brown, but he started to go silver in his 20s and was all the way there by the late '90s. Now, he says, there's no going back from black: "It's here to stay."

MINOR-LEAGUER HURT: Double-A Montgomery LHP Darin Downs was hospitalized in "serious but stable" condition after being struck on the side of the head by a line drive Monday.

The injuries are not considered life-threatening. Downs was alert and conscious in Birmingham's St. Vincent Hospital, but according to the Montgomery Advertiser he has a fractured skull and is in intensive care being monitored for cranial bleeding and swelling.

Downs, 24, was hit by Christian Marrerro, with the ball caroming into the dugout. Downs was making his second Double-A start after a promotion from Class A Charlotte, where he was 12-4, 2.00. He was placed on the DL Tuesday and is unlikely to return this season.

COMINGS AND GOINGS: SS Reid Brignac started so Jason Bartlett could get the day off, then was optioned back to Triple-A Durham so RHP Chad Bradford could be activated. Bradford has been out since late July with a stiff back.

SELECTIVE MEMORY: Aubrey Huff may have just been trying to say the right thing after being traded to Detroit, but what he said was the young players the Orioles have now are better than the Rays' youngsters when he was with them.

"This is probably some of the best young talent I've ever been around, and I've been around some young talent with my days in Tampa," Huff said. "I always said those guys were some of the best young players coming up with Carl Crawford, (Rocco) Baldelli and (Scott) Kazmir, but if you ask me, these guys are more talented."

DRAFT FOLLOW: Rays officials didn't have any regrets after failing to sign top draft pick LeVon Washington despite offering more than the recommended slot bonus of $1.08 million.

"As long as LeVon was comfortable with the decision, obviously that's all we cared about it, and obviously he was," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "So therefore we wish him the best of luck. There's times in negotiations where there's not an overlap, and this was one of those instances."

MISCELLANY: 2B Akinori Iwamura (left knee) left his Triple-A rehab game in the third due to "muscle fatigue" but is expected back Thursday. … OF Fernando Perez (left wrist) was moved up to Durham to finish his rehab and went 1-for-3 with a stolen base.

Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton has breakout game 08/18/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 9:31am]

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