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Upton tastes ups and downs of big leagues

MARC TOPKIN
Published May 13, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Before top prospect B.J. Upton got promoted to Triple A on Wednesday, he got called up to the big leagues - for about eight hours.

General manager Chuck LaMar and manager Lou Piniella decided late after Tuesday's loss to bring Upton, the talented 19-year-old shortstop, from Double-A Montgomery to the big leagues and had team officials tell him the news. But by Wednesday morning they changed their minds and decided to send him instead to Triple-A Durham.

"Lou and I both felt what's best for the player is eventually what's best for the organization, and we both felt (Wednesday) morning that what's best for B.J. Upton's future was to take the last minor-league step and play in Durham and then be called up to the major leagues," LaMar said.

"When that call-up comes will be determined by how B.J. plays. But we both felt like we'd be making a mistake to call him up now."

For Upton the change of plans led to an emotional day. He got the news, and his travel plans, late Tuesday and immediately called his parents, who scrambled to make plans to be in St. Petersburg on Wednesday night. Upton was at the airport waiting to fly to Tampa when LaMar called and told him he was instead going to meet the Durham team in Scranton, Pa.

"He's obviously very disappointed," agent Larry Reynolds said. "I guess they had a change in thinking. ... But B.J. is a very mature kid and I don't expect any difference out of him. B.J.'s going to give his best effort no matter where he's at."

Upton had been tearing up the Southern League, hitting .327 (eighth in the league) with seven doubles, a triple, two home runs and 15 RBIs in 29 games. He made 10 errors, though the Rays say his defense has improved since the spring.

"B.J. Upton is one of the finest, if not the finest, prospect in minor-league baseball, and we think he's going to have an impact in this organization for a long time," LaMar said. "The timing wasn't right. He's the right player and eventually he'll be the shortstop, and that may be sometime this year. But we also know he still has some improving to do and he cando that easier at the Triple-A level than here in the major leagues."

KING CARL: Carl Crawford stole two bases, taking over the AL lead with 17 and moving into first place on the Rays all-time steals list with 81.

"I guess it's nice; the franchise hasn't been around too long," Crawford said. "I'm looking forward to getting many more. I'm trying to set the bar pretty high."

Randy Winn was the franchise leader with 80 steals. Crawford has been tied for the AL league with Baltimore's Brian Roberts.

If Crawford gets 19 more steals by Aug.4, a span of 75 games, he will become the eighth player in the modern era to total 100 steals before his 23rd birthday.

HERNANDEZ OUT: Piniella said pitching coach Chuck Hernandez will be away from the team at least through the weekend to attend to his father, who had a heart attack at Tropicana Field during Tuesday's game and was hospitalized in critical condition.

Joe Coleman, the Triple-A pitching coach, is expected to join the Rays for today's game. Jerry Nyman, the minor-league pitching coordinator, will fill in for Coleman with the Bulls.

EDDIE STEADY: Eduardo Perez was in good spirits after surgery Wednesday by Dr. Koco Eaton to repair a torn left Achilles' tendon. Perez is expected to be out at least the rest of this season.

MISCELLANY: The Rays scored more than five runs for the first time since May 2. ... The Rangers have hit 14 of their AL-high 47 homers against the Rays. ... Tino Martinez has two hits off Chan Ho Park, both homers. ... Texas reliever Doug Brocail was scheduled for an appendectomy Wednesday at St. Anthony's Hospital; the Rangers called up Frank Francisco from Double-A Frisco. ... Damian Moss tossed five shutout innings in his first start for Durham, though he walked four. ... Left-hander Chris Seddon was promoted from Bakersfield (where he was 5-0 with an 0.65 ERA) to Montgomery.

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