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Tampa Bay Rays say slumping B.J. Upton needs to think less, stop beating himself up

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Rays feel the key to getting more out of CF B.J. Upton is getting him to do less.

Manager Joe Maddon told the struggling centerfielder in a Tuesday night meeting they want him to do less thinking, stop beating himself up mentally and do less work in trying to correct his swing.

"I just think he's been really pressing way too hard," Maddon said. "I think people read him in entirely the wrong way. He's been working actually, I thought, too much."

Instead, the Rays want Upton, 24, to get back to having fun while he's playing.

Upton said he felt better immediately on Tuesday ("probably the best I felt all year"), then with being out of the lineup Wednesday and having no game today expects to be in good form — despite his .235 overall average, and latest 1-for-19 skid — for Friday's game.

"I'm good with it," Upton said. "Pretty much the whole conversation was just, let it go and have fun. I guess they could kind of see the cup had runneth over a little bit. Just let everything go pretty much, have fun. There's nothing wrong, there's nothing going on. I'm just beating myself up about it too much."

Maddon said Upton has hit best when he takes less batting practice, so he told hitting coach Steve Henderson to curtail the extra work they were doing and gave Upton the option of skipping batting practice.

They also discussed Upton's comments that being dropped to ninth in the order felt "almost like a kick in the face." Maddon said "there's really no issue," and he's convinced Upton was more embarrassed and disappointed in himself than with the team.

DRAFT BREEZE: The Rays will have lots to talk about over the next five days with their top five and No. 9 draft picks unsigned and the Monday midnight deadline fast approaching.

"We've made significant progress with a number of them and others we haven't made very much progress at all," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "Our hope is to sign them all, but we're also prepared in the event that we don't."

Because several top picks had tempting college offers — No. 1 INF/OF LeVon Washington, Florida; No. 2 INF Ken Diekroeger, Stanford; No. 3 OF Todd Glaesmann, Texas A&M — the Rays spent more during the international signing period, adding several teenage prospects. If they don't sign any of the top three, they get "same-slot compensation" in next year's draft — an extra pick at the same position. (If Washington, the 30th pick, doesn't sign, they would get pick 30-A in addition to their regular first-round pick.)

"We took a lot of tough signs this year and, as a result, we were more aggressive in Latin America than we otherwise would have been," Friedman said. "Our preference is to sign them all and have the kids that we signed in Latin America, but we'll see how it lines up."

DO THE WAIVE: C Michel Hernandez, who started 29 games, cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham. The Rays are waiting to hear if INF Joe Dillon will do the same. Both were designated for assignment last week when the Rays added RHP Russ Springer and C Gregg Zaun.

Two pitchers who were recently acquired but never made it to the big-league team were lost on waivers: RHP John Meloan was claimed by the Pirates, LHP R.J. Swindle by the Indians.

REHAB REPORT: RHP Chad Bradford (back) pitched one shutout inning in his second of back-to-back appearances with Class A Charlotte on Wednesday. If he comes out of that okay, he could rejoin the Rays on Saturday. … OF Fernando Perez (left wrist) is continuing to play at Charlotte but may soon be moved up. … 2B Akinori Iwamura (left knee) will start playing for Triple-A Durham on Friday.

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Lon­goria is 10-for-20 in five games at Angel Stadium. … 1B Carlos Peña had his 15th multihomer game. … The Rays are 1-13 in Anaheim under Maddon, 14-40 overall. … Tuesday's 6-0 loss ended the team-record streak of 15 games with a home run.

Tampa Bay Rays say slumping B.J. Upton needs to think less, stop beating himself up 08/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009 6:39am]
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