ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays decided the future is now for top prospect B.J. Upton.
The 19-year-old shortstop will be called up from Triple A today and will be in uniform, and possibly in the lineup, for the 1:15 p.m. game against Toronto.
Upton has put up dazzling numbers since being promoted to Triple-A Durham, hitting .312 with 12 homers, 36 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 68 games. He also has made 25 errors, many on throws.
Upton was the No. 2 pick in the 2002 draft. He hit .297 in his first pro season, splitting time between Class A Charleston (S.C.) and Double-A Orlando. He started this season at Double-A Montgomery and moved up to Durham.
The Rays have talked with Upton about a long-term deal for nine years, an unprecedented deal for a minor-leaguer. But both sides agreed to put the negotiations off, clearing the way for his promotion.
"We had some great discussions, but nothing has been done as of yet," general manager Chuck LaMar said.
LONG-TERM VIEW: The Rays didn't add any players Saturday, but they're talking about keeping some of the key ones they have for a long time.
The Rays this week plan to make proposals on long-term deals - for four or five years - to outfielders Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford and will explore the issue with infielder Julio Lugo, who may be moved to second base with Upton's promotion.
"Our goal is to try to get all these young players, the nucleus of our future, signed to long-term contracts," LaMar said.
The Rays first brought up the subject in mid June, and the players had wondered about the lack of progress.
But team officials apparently are ready to go forward, hoping to gain cost certainty and roster stability by getting the players signed through at least their first years of free-agency eligibility. The benefit for the players is the guaranteed money.
The Rays also plan to make a contract offer this week to first-round pick Jeff Niemann, the right-handed pitcher from Rice. With the acquisition of Scott Kazmir from the Mets, the Rays believe they would have two potential front-of-the-rotation starters in the minors.
WEBB'S CITY: Right-hander John Webb didn't know what to make of the news Friday night that he was being promoted from Double-A Montgomery to the big leagues to fill a spot in the bullpen opened by the trade of Victor Zambrano.
"I was shocked, a little nervous, overwhelmed, excited, relieved," Webb said. "I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do."
The Rays claimed Webb off waivers from the Cubs in February after he broke his leg chasing his dog, and waited for him to get healthy. Webb was 1-1 with a 5.31 ERA in eight games for the Biscuits and seemed to be improving each time.
"We think he's a major-league pitcher," LaMar said. "He may not be ready right now, but we wouldn't have claimed him if we didn't think sometime next year he could help us."
OLYMPIC VIEW: Catcher Pete LaForest leaves Triple-A Durham today for Toronto to meet with his Canadian Olympic teammates and start preparing for the Athens Games.
"It's unbelievable," LaForest said. "I can't believe I'm going to the Olympics. You see it on TV when you're a kid. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
KIDS PLAY: Today is National Kids Day at the Trop, an effort led by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to encourage adults to spend time with their children. Lance Carter, Tino Martinez and bench coach John McLaren purchased tickets and T-shirts for the participating kids, some of whom will be involved in on-field and game-day events.
MISCELLANY: The Rays are 29-21 at the Trop and haven't lost a home series since late May. ... The Rays are 4-1 on their season-high 13-game homestand. ... Eric Hinske's eighth-inning home run snapped a 151/3-inning scoreless streak by Rays relievers. ... Jose Cruz stole his 100th career base.