Results tagged ‘ Rays ’

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. caught up with B.J. on Friday to talk about the Braves, Justin and the Nationals. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

Upton wants to stay with Rays, but wouldn’t mind playing with Zimmerman

Center fielder B.J. Upton told Craig Heist of WTOP in Washington that he would love to stay with the Rays, but would not be surprised if he was traded after the season.

Upton also said that he wouldn’t mind playing close to home and with his childhood friend, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. The two grew up together playing Little League Baseball in Virginia.

“I would love to be [in Tampa],” Upton said. “But I can’t sit here and say there is not a possibility that I could be gone. Like I said, I love this organization. They have given me the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. They are obviously the team that drafted me. I would love to be here.

“If I’m not, playing in Washington would kind of be playing close to home. I just want to play anywhere. … Since you brought up Washington, it would be kind of cool to play close to home and definitely play with the guy in Ryan Zimmerman that I played with growing up. That would be kind of a cool thing. I’ve known him for a long time. … To be on the team with him and playing in the division [against Mets third baseman] David Wright, who I also grew up with, that would be a cool thing, but right now, my heart is with the Rays.”

Zimmerman made it known in late July that he would love to play with his Upton. There has been speculation for weeks that the Nationals have been interested in the right-handed-hitting Upton.

Back in July, Zimmerman said he did not talk to Upton about the possibility of playing close to home. During the offseason, however, Upton sometimes told Zimmerman how lucky he is to play close to home.

“It would be different and I think it would be fun, but when it comes down to it, the most important thing is to get guys who can help us win,” Zimmerman said. “B.J. is a very talented player. I think a lot of people still think he is going to improve a lot. He has all the tools. He is one of those guys who can run, throw and hit for power. He is a very gifted athlete.”

Nats continue to have interest in Upton

The Nationals continue to look for a center fielder, and B.J. Upton of the Rays is one of their targets, according to a baseball source.

Upton, a Virginia native and Ryan Zimmerman’s childhood friend, is considered an excellent defensive center fielder, but is having a down year at the plate, hitting .230 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs.

However, according to the source, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo believes a change of scenery would help Upton’s career.

Upton, 26, hasn’t had a good season with the bat since 2008, when he hit .273 with nine home runs and 67 RBIs for the Rays. It’s not known if the Nationals and Rays are having serious discussions about Upton.

It was reported last April that the Nationals had been scouting Upton, but the club didn’t have interest in acquiring him at that time. It was pointed out that it was routine scouting that is normally done during the season.

The Nationals haven’t received any production from their center fielders this season. Entering Sunday’s action, their center fielders are a combined 52-for-230 [.226] with two home runs, 16 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .291.

Washington has been looking for a center fielder for quite some time. The team had interest in other center fielders such as Michael Bourn of the Astros and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. But the Nationals were never in serious discussions with those clubs.