tampabay.com

Upton back soon - but where?

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA AND BRANT JAMES
Published June 23, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - The Rays hope to have injured 2B/CF B.J. Upton back within the next 10 days, but where Upton fits into the lineup is uncertain.

With CF Elijah Dukes sent to the minors on the temporary inactive list and RF Delmon Young playing out of place in center, that would be the most likely spot for Upton. But considering his injury - a left quad strain - the Rays might start him at second base instead when he returns.

The team hopes to send Upton on a rehab assignment to Class A Vero Beach, which plays Wednesday through Saturday at the Tampa Yankees. If that stint is successful, the decision to activate Upton would be made on a day-to-day basis, manager Joe Maddon said.

"Our first objective is to get him back to the major-league level, " executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Friday. "And I think if you're trying to get him to play center (at Vero Beach), it would be a little longer than if you were trying to get him to play second. First and foremost, we want to get him back here."

"I like the progress he's making at second base, too, " Maddon said. "It's a tough call."

MEETING TIME: Maddon admitted that Dukes' departure had something to do with an impromptu team meeting before the game, saying it was the perfect time to move forward.

"I wanted to do it now because I believe we're a lot closer than a lot of people realize to playing very well on a consistent basis, " Maddon said.

The Rays are not far away from being the opposite of their 31-40 record, Maddon said, and he wanted to emphasize team values as well as fundamentals preached during spring training.

"If you look at our record, if we did a couple things properly, our record would be actually be reversed, " he said. "We're upside-down right now, but we're going to be right-side up. I want them to understand how close we are to being there."

TIME FOR MOHR: OF Dustan Mohr, valuable because he can play all three outfield positions, was recalled.

Despite batting .229 in 201 at-bats at Triple-A Durham, Mohr adds major-league experience and is a valued presence in the clubhouse, Maddon said.

"He's a fine defensive outfielder as we all saw in spring training, " Maddon said. "He's a good man. He's been around. He's been around a bit. He's going to fit in well, I know."

The team moved CF Rocco Baldelli from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to make room for Mohr. That move is retroactive to May 16.

NO VENGEANCE: Two days before the 23-year-old faces his former team for the first time since being traded from the Dodgers, RHP Edwin Jackson couldn't summon a bit of venom.

"I had my opportunities, " said Jackson, 6-4 with a 5.50 ERA in parts of three seasons with the Dodgers. "Who's to say what enough opportunity is. (But) I definitely had a chance to go out and win a position.

"No hard feelings."

With the Rays, Jackson has had the opportunity to become and stay a full-time starter, though his numbers have been unimpressive: 0-8 with a 7.85 ERA in 13 starts.

Jackson said his start Sunday was never in doubt, in his opinion, although he left his most recent start one out from a decision and leading 3-2 at Arizona on Monday with a cramp in his right index finger, an injury he said he overcame easily in the minors three years ago.

MISCELLANY: RHP Jae Seo pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed just one hit in his third start at Triple-A Durham. ... OF Jason Pridie, hitting .290 at Double-A Montgomery, was promoted to Durham to fill Mohr's spot. ... RHP Doug Waechter allowed two earned runs on four hits, including a home run, in three innings in a 3-0 loss during a rehab start with Class A Hudson Valley. ... The Rays signed their 16th selection in the draft, Mississippi State RHP Joshua Johnson. The organization has signed 18 picks and 13 of its first 26.