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Keep Upton at SS or deal him, agent says

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published September 15, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - If the Devil Rays decide that top infield prospect B.J. Upton should change positions from shortstop to third base, agent Larry Reynolds said Upton might be better off changing teams.

"My only comment is that if they don't think he can play shortstop, then they should think about trading him," Reynolds said. "My guess is that a number of clubs would be interested in him and would develop him as a shortstop."

Upton's development, or lack thereof, at shortstop is a major issue for the Rays, and general manager Chuck LaMar said they need to decide soon, perhaps by spring training, whether to move him.

Upton, however, said Wednesday he has no interest in changing positions.

"I want to play shortstop, and I want to play shortstop for a winning team," he said from his Virginia home. "My goals haven't changed."

Upton, 21, made 53 errors in 133 games at shortstop for Triple-A Durham this season, though LaMar said he got better as the season went on. Upton, the No.2 pick in the 2002 draft, has 144 errors in 367 career minor-league games, plus nine in 19 big-league games.

"One of the biggest decisions this organization will make is, is B.J. going to be the everyday shortstop. If not, personally my decision would be to move him to third base and let him play there," LaMar said.

"There's a lot of good players that have had to change positions. We hope like heck B.J. stays at shortstop because it's such a premium position. ... But I think the sooner (the decision is) made, the better."

LaMar said Upton, who hit .303 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs, is ready offensively to play in the big leagues. "I think he's going to be an All-Star no matter what position he plays," LaMar said.

Upton said he had hoped to get a September callup. "I was disappointed, but what can you do?" he said. "Of course I want to play in the big leagues, but it's out of my hands."

Reynolds' comments came two days after the Rays' top outfield prospect, Delmon Young , called the organization cheap and inconsiderate and said he planned to leave as soon as he became eligible for free agency.

WINTER WONDERS: Upton has not decided whether to accept an invitation to play winter ball in Puerto Rico, Reynolds said. Pitcher Dewon Brazelton said he plans to go. Outfielder Joey Gathright said he had not decided but would be more likely to go if Upton went. Young has said no.

HIT CHART: Jorge Cantu 's left elbow was sore and swollen after he was hit by a Tanyon Sturtze pitch, but X-rays showed no fractures. "It's not broken, so that's good," said Cantu, who had his 103rd RBI, four shy of the team record. ... Carl Crawford hit his AL-leading 15th triple and 30th double and ran his extra-base hits total to a career-high 58.

ABOUT TUESDAY NIGHT: The 17 runs were the Yankees' third most against the Rays this season, having rung up 20 on June 21 and 19 on April 18. That made them, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the first team to score 17 or more three times in a season against the same opponent in more than 65 years, since the 1939 Yankees did it to the Philadelphia A's. ... The runs were also the most the Yankees had scored at the Trop. ... The Rays had gone more than 71/2 seasons without having a starting pitcher removed without recording an out. Then they had two in eight weeks: Mark Hendrickson faced six Red Sox on July 20, Doug Waechter faced seven Yankees on Tuesday.

YANKEES DOODLES: Principal owner George Steinbrenner watched from a suite. ... Pitcher Mike Mussina , sidelined with a sore elbow, was encouraged the day after throwing a bullpen session and plans to test it again Friday. ... General manager Brian Cashman joined the team at Steinbrenner's suggestion.

MISCELLANY: The Yankees won their first series in six tries against the Rays. ... Rays players contributed about $40,000 to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund, and closer Danys Baez donated 75 tickets to Wednesday's game to victims who had been relocated to the bay area. ... Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez , sent home Tuesday with flu-like symptoms, was back.

[Last modified September 15, 2005, 01:12:12]

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