tampabay.com

Rays to wait and see with Upton

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published August 20, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays will keep an eye on B.J. Upton's left shoulder the rest of the season to see if the third baseman needs tests to determine what causes the joint to occasionally pinch when he swings.

"The next six weeks will be the telltale on that," trainer Ron Porterfield said Saturday. "How he feels and how he does with it. How he can function. Is it strong, is it weak? Does he have symptoms, does he not have symptoms? That's going to be the telltale sign the rest of the season."

Upton has missed two games because of a strain sustained Thursday when he swung and missed a pitch. Upton said the injury has been a sometimes thing in his career but never a serious problem.

Porterfield said there is no indication the injury is acute. Upton took batting practice Saturday, and Porterfield said he has full range of motion.

Upton was available as a pinch runner, and manager Joe Maddon said he could play today, though Monday or Tuesday is more likely.

"He's still got a little soreness," Porterfield said. "It's almost like if I punched you and hit you real hard in the arm. You'd feel it tomorrow but it's not like you can't function."

Still, Maddon said he has concerns Upton could be aggravating an old injury or has a flaw in his swing.

"But on the good side," Maddon said, "when it's happened before, normally, he's been back in two or three days like nothing has ever happened before."

That is why Porterfield said he wants to be cautious before recommending tests.

"That might be something at the end of the year we look into," he said. "But I don't think it's anything big we have to jump into right now. I think he'll come out of it and be fine."

BATTING EIGHTH: Jorge Cantu has struggled with injuries and at the plate, and entering Saturday was batting .162 (12-for-74) since July 24. No surprise, then, the second baseman was dropped to eighth in the batting order.

Cantu, who has spent most of the season batting second through fifth, said he doesn't care where he bats.

"If you do the job, it's just like batting third, fourth or fifth," he said.

Cantu admitted the season has been frustrating, not only because he was batting .242 with nine home runs and 48 RBIs but because he believes he never gained his stride after missing 39 games with a fractured left foot.

He also has been bothered by a sore back.

"I'm just trying to work hard and finish the season the right way," said 2005 team MVP who batted .286 with 28 home runs and 117 RBIs.

Maddon said breaking balls seem to be bothering Cantu most. The best cure, he said, is to try to hit them the opposite way. He also wants Cantu to steady his head when he swings.

"He's had a hard time finding it this year," Maddon said. "But he's going to be fine."

"It's getting late, but I can look at myself at the end of the season and know I tried everything I could," Cantu said.

CRAWFORD HONORED: Leftfielder Carl Crawford was named the Rays' winner of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association Heart and Hustle Award. The award recognizes a player who demonstrates "passion for the game . . . and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game of baseball."

MINOR MATTERS: Mike Wlodarczyk and Celso Rondon combined for a no-hitter Friday for Class A Southwest Michigan against Peoria. Wlodarczyk was pulled after eight innings with 96 pitches, one more than the organizational limit. "That's a no-brainer," manager Skeeter Barnes told the Battle Creek Enquirer. "We can't send him out there at that point. If something happened to his arm we'd never hear the end of it." . . . First baseman Kevin Witt extended his organizational record with his 36th home run for Triple-A Durham.

MISCELLANY: With eight players with at least 10 home runs, the Rays matched the Rangers and Reds for most in the majors. . . . Tampa Bay's 147 home runs are 15 off the club record. . . . Rays attendance at Tropicana Field entering Saturday was up 23 percent at 1,027,308. Still, the team was last in the American League with an average 17,407.