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Tempers flare, Tampa Bay Rays' offensive slump continues in loss to Arizona Diamondbacks

ST. PETERSBURG — The calm, conciliatory and even casual manner in which B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria spoke late Sunday afternoon belied the emotions of the heated altercation they had in the dugout during the 2-1 loss to Arizona.

Both insisted the clash —which originated with Longoria saying something to Upton about not hustling after a ball in the outfield, and ended with Upton being restrained by teammate Willy Aybar — was already behind them and would have no lingering effects on the struggling team, which dropped into third place at 44-32 after losing for the 19th time in 31 games.

"We just disagreed, talked about it, it's done with, and move on," Upton said. "We can't have those type of distractions. We've got to move on and try to win some ball games. We're in the middle of a pennant race right now and that's all that matters. … It's squashed. Think nothing of it. We'll be fine tomorrow."

"It's not that big of a deal," Longoria said. "It's just a couple guys who are frustrated with the way that they're playing and not being able to help the team. I think it just got a little bit more out of hand than it should've. We talked about it, and I think it's done."

Manager Joe Maddon, though, will have the final say and said he would first meet with Upton — whom he had both defended and disciplined in previous lack-of-hustle-related incidents, including pulling him in the middle of a 2008 game in Texas — before determining whether the latest episode warrants punishment.

"That's up for me to decide," Maddon said. "And when I decide, I'll take action."

But Maddon made it clear how he viewed the situation.

First, he said it was obvious Upton "just did not run as hard as he possibly could after the ball."

Next, he said he encourages the players to police themselves, that several were "not pleased" with what took place on the field, and he considered this incident "a great example" of that type of enforcement.

Then he said of the whole episode: "I was watching how it unfolded, and I thought it was handled properly, and I was pleased with it."

Upton, who initially sent word he wouldn't talk to reporters then changed his mind, called it "just a little run-in" that happens over the course of a season and said he didn't expect any disciplinary action.

It all started in the fifth inning of what was then a scoreless game, when Arizona's Rusty Ryal pulled a ball into the left-centerfield gap. Upton, positioned by the coaches toward right-center, ran casually — or jogged — after the ball as it rolled to the wall, assuming, he said later, "the leftfielder" — Matt Joyce, who was filling in for Carl Crawford — "might be there" to get it.

Ryal stretched what should have been a double to a triple, though the difference became moot six pitches later when Gerardo Parra hit a two-run homer.

As soon as Upton got in the dugout after the half-inning, Longoria went up and said something — though he declined to say exactly what — and Upton reacted angrily, yelling and pointing his finger at Longoria. They faced off to exchange more words, then Longoria turned away and Upton was forced away by Aybar, who, comically carrying the other Rays' players mantra of not commenting about the situation a bit too far, said: "I didn't see nothing."

Longoria gave Upton — who he described as "probably my closest friend" on the team — a pass on his violent reaction.

"B.J.'s an emotional player and when we're not playing up to our potential, things get multiplied," Longoria said. "I don't think it got that out of hand to be honest with you. Obviously it looks a lot worse from the outside. But what's done is done, and we move on."

Upton's day, culminating a family reunion weekend showdown with brother Justin Upton, got only more frustrating. He got picked off first after walking in the fifth and missed by just a few feet a walkoff homer that was caught by Chris Young for the final out in almost the same spot in left-center where his travails started.

Summarized Longoria: "It's just the byproduct of a frustrated team."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Tempers flare, Tampa Bay Rays' offensive slump continues in loss to Arizona Diamondbacks 06/27/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 28, 2010 10:25am]
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