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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Upton's torrid offensive pace not slowing
Published April 7, 2007
Gov. Charlie Crist throws out the first pitch at the Devil Rays’ home opener.
[Times photo: James Borchuck]
ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon hoped that moving B.J. Upton into a super-utility role would help his offense. Three games into the season, Upton seems to have found a home at second base, and his bat has never been better.
Upton was 2-for-4 Friday night and his two-out infield single to shortstop in the ninth was the winning hit in the Rays’ 6-5 win over Toronto. Through three games, Upton is 6-for-12. He also added his first homer Friday, a solo shot to rightfield in the third.
He admitted his ninth-inning hit wasn’t as pretty. But when he hit a B.J. Ryan pitch into the ground to the left of the mound, Upton knew it would take an amazing play by shortstop John McDonald to prolong the game.
“I’ll take it any way you can,” Upton said. “Just have to win.”
McDonald charged the nubber but couldn’t scoop up the ball as Upton sped safely to first. Meanwhile, Akinori Iwamura crossed the plate with the winning run.
“That made a big difference,” Maddon said of Upton’s speed.”
TAKING IT SLOW: Maddon was impressed with how reliever Al Reyes closed Thursday night’s game at Yankee Stadium but remains cautious utilizing the 36-year-old reliever, who is returning from Tommy John surgery.
“I’d rather have a little testing period to know that he’s well and that he’s not pushing it,” Maddon said.
GETTING WORK IN: Fifth starter Edwin Jackson pitched a shortened simulation game Friday because he doesn’t make his first start until Monday.
“He pitched so well in spring training that we were concerned that a long layoff might cause him to go back a bit, so we thought it was very important to get him out there,” Maddon said.
Jackson hasn’t pitched in a game since March29 against the Red Sox. Maddon hoped to use Jackson out of the bullpen during the Yankees series.
“I was just trying to get that feel back,” the right-hander said.
JUST LIKE THE REST: Maddon said he is comfortable taking the reins off tonight’s starter, Casey Fossum, who is coming back from shoulder surgery.
“He probably could go around 100 pitches if he needed to,” Maddon said. “We’ll let him go, as long as he doesn’t throw 30 pitches in one inning and 25 in another.”
FANS BEWARE: A day after outfielder Elijah Dukes hit home runs in his first two big-league games, talk still focused on Dukes’ line-drive shot Thursday that sped into the Yankee Stadium stands.
“I didn’t even touch first and it was already hitting somebody in the leg,” Dukes said.
Said Maddon: “It had to be one of the quickest homers in history. … If I’m a fan, I’m getting out of the way of the thing.”
Dukes singled twice Friday and is 4-for-11 on the season. No one has hit homers in his first three major-league games.
MISCELLANY: Tampa Bay is the only AL team that has not committed an error. … The touch tank is closed during this series for maintenance. … Relievers Shawn Camp and Ruddy Lugo, along with former Rays Fred McGriff and Aaron Ledesma, are scheduled to sign autographs from 5:45 to 6:15 tonight.