Rival Q&A: Braves Center Fielder B.J. Upton
After eight years with the Rays, outfielder B.J. Upton signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the Braves this past offseason. So far, Upton is off to a slow start, going 3-for-29 with just an RBI entering Friday’s action. However, his teammate, brother Justin Upton, is red hot, hitting .353 with a league-leading six home runs.
MLB.com caught up with B.J. on Friday to talk about the Braves, Justin and the Nationals.
MLB.com: How good are the Braves this year?
B.J. Upton: We can be very good. We have all the right pieces. We have the pitching, we have the bullpen. We have the lineup to do it. We have the bench players to do it. We have to keep doing what we are doing. The biggest thing for us: we are playing well, but we haven’t clicked on all cylinders yet.
MLB.com: How do you explain the fast start? The Braves lost only one game.
Upton: I don’t know. We are getting timely hits. Our pitching has been keeping us in ballgames. We are just hitting the ball when we need to right now. Obviously, we would like to do it a little bit more consistently, but it’s still early. We have a lot of season left.
MLB.com: How good is it to see your brother, Justin, get off to a hot start?
Upton: It’s something that is pretty cool to watch. Obviously, what happened during the offseason and the rumors that were rumbling around, it could have affected him. [Those rumors] haven’t affected him. For the most part, he has been carrying us. He has been doing pretty well right now.
MLB.com: How much has your presence helped him?
Upton: I don’t know. I can’t say he wouldn’t be doing this without me here. I’ve seen him do it in the past. … He is a strong-minded guy, he works hard and he strives for perfection. Obviously, you are not going to be perfect in this game. If you expect that out of yourself, you are going to get the results that you want.
MLB.com: What do you think of the Nationals? How much of a factor will they be in the National League East race?
Upton: They are a great team. Obviously, they showed it last year. They didn’t lose anybody and they have some guys back healthy. Like I said, they are a great ballclub and we know they are going to be around all season.
MLB.com: I know you are from Virginia. After you became a free agent, did you think about playing for the Nationals?
Upton: That was always a possibility. It didn’t work out that way. I’m an Atlanta Brave. I’m looking forward to playing baseball with these guys.
MLB.com: Did you ever think about playing on the same big-league team as Ryan Zimmerman?
Upton: We would like to do it. But sometimes, things don’t work out. We are always going to support each other. Maybe not as much in the series when we play each other. But we are always going to support each other. I wish him the best. We’ve always been good friends. We get together during the offseason as much as we can. I know he comes to Florida every once in a while. We get out and have some dinner. I’m always supporting him and he is always supporting me.
MLB.com: You spent most of your career with the Rays. Do you miss them?
Upton: Obviously, being with them for 10 years, there are some things that I miss, but it’s baseball. Obviously, there are some guys who stay with one franchise their entire careers. But I think to be at one place for 10 years is pretty good. I will always have a place in my heart for them and I’m always rooting for those guys because they gave me an opportunity to be where I am today. I wish them nothing but the best.
MLB.com: What do you miss about the city of Tampa?
Upton: I still live there during the offseason. I can’t really say I miss it because I’m there all the time. When I’m not in Atlanta, I’ll be in Tampa. The people and the city of Tampa, it’s a great place to live. They are friendly people, it’s a great place to start a family. For me, I like to play golf. It’s a great place to play golf. It such a great place to be. The weather is beautiful all year round. I feel comfortable there. I lived there the last eight years. Obviously home is Virginia, but if there is a home away from home, Tampa is it. I plan on settling there.