Given past incidentsand a reputation - deserved or not - that has preceded him, B.J. Upton knew it looked bad when he was removed from Wednesday's Rays game against the Yankees after not running hard for several balls.
But the centerfielder said Friday it would have been worse had he stayed in given the limitations of his still-sore left ankle, which likely will keep him sidelined through the weekend, and his desire to play is being unfairly questioned.
"I know some think I might be faking it or whatever the case may be," Upton said. "But I played with a shoulder injury all last year. I was here with this organization when we were getting beat every night and losing close to 100 games every year. So me not wanting to be on the field is not the issue.
"I feel like I went out there and I gave what I had. Some are going to see it a little bit different than others. But I know the way it was, and I knew I wasn't going to help the team. And it just looked bad."
Upton sprained the ankle Sept. 3, missed four games, returned for Monday's doubleheader nightcap with the Yankees, sat out Tuesday and returned Wednesday for a nationally televised game in Yankee Stadium, telling manager Joe Maddon the ankle felt better.
But it became more of an issue as the game went on, and after watching Upton go slowly after several balls, including a fly by Derek Jeter that landed on the warning track, and not run hard to first, Maddon took action. He asked how the ankle really felt. Upton said it hurt. Maddon said he was done.
"Those are obviously balls that everybody has normally seen me get to without a problem," Upton said. "And as the game went on, (the ankle) just wasn't right. I'm not doing anybody any good by trying to go out there and play like that. I can't look like that on the baseball field."
Maddon said he could tell Upton was in pain as much from how he reacted to balls as how he stood on the field. He believed he had to do something, even if it looked like he was doing something else, such as when he pulled Upton from a game in August 2008 for not hustling.
"I knew it was the ankle," Maddon said. "I could tell watching in between pitches. He had his hands on his knee and his head down, which he doesn't ever do.
"I know it looked bad. It played bad. It gave all the wrong vibes about it. But I knew he was hurting, and regardless of how everyone else may react, I still want to react the way I believe is the right way to do so."
Upton likely won't try to play again until Monday in Baltimore at the earliest, spending the weekend getting treatment. The Rays will have only 19 games left at that point and could be all but officially eliminated from postseason possibilities. But Upton said he plans to play again this season.
"I want to go back out there," he said. "I'm not shutting it down."
Maddon said he's sure and "would bet" Upton will get back on the field. But he also said: "For right now, I don't want him to go out there unless he is feeling 100 percent."