PORT CHARLOTTE — If appearances mean anything, this could be the year B.J. Upton has the kind of year everyone has been waiting for.
That's how Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer, a friend since they both were growing up in Virginia, sees it now, and expects to see it come September.
It's not so much how Upton, 25, looks on the field, Cuddyer said. The physical tools have always been there, and Upton has been saying he's fully healthy, finally over all effects of his November 2008 left shoulder surgery, and feeling great.
It's more how Cuddyer sees Upton carry himself and conduct himself with the media that has him feeling he has put his somewhat controversial past, stemming from benchings for lack of hustle and the perception of attitude issues, behind him.
"One thing I'm proud of with B.J., you watch him do interviews and you can tell he's matured, and you can tell he's continuing to mature," Cuddyer said. "Hopefully that will relate onto the field, and he can kind of shake the labels he's got.
"Because he is a good guy and he means well and he's good-hearted. So I get on him all the time. And I'm hoping for good things for him."
And if that's not enough, there's also the matter of younger brother Justin's All-Star status and his new six-year, $51.25 million contract.
"Maybe," Cuddyer said, "he's going to go out there and prove his brother's not the only one."
CLUB TROP: Jim Rome made some fun of the Rays on his national radio show for their efforts to turn the Trop into a "baseball nightclub" on Friday nights, then concluded: "While it's too bad a quality organization like the Rays have to resort to this, at least they're smart enough to acknowledge it. I like it. Forget the peanuts and Cracker Jack, buy me some peach schnapps and cognac."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: The team should know more this week on when Cuban defector Leslie Anderson will resolve all issues to get from Mexico to report to spring training. … Upton's ESPN Sunday Night Baseball TV commercials start airing this week. … Manager Joe Maddon said he was on a waiting list to get into Cornell but was accepted first by Lafayette. … The Rays aren't among the 11 teams featured in a new line of women's clothing items by Victoria's Secret (so no linge-ray?) nor the eight that Tommy Bahama is making shirts for. … OF Elijah Dukes, unexpectedly released last week by the Nats, may end up with another big-league team, but it won't be a return engagement with the Rays. … Three finalists for the Trop PA job, including radio personality Ronnie Lane, tried out last week at a spring game. … Cal Ripken, a co-owner of the Class A Stone Crabs, will attend the April 8 opener at Charlotte Sports Park. … SI's Tom Verducci said on Boston radio he expects the Yankees to sign Carl Crawford because "nobody is going to out-bid them." … R.J. Harrison was ranked third among MLB scouting directors by Andy Seiler's MLB Draft Blog. … The 448-page media guide will be sold at the team store for $12.