Rays could shift Upton to right field
Maddon pondering idea to take stress off center fielder's leg
ST. PETERSBURG -- B.J. Upton took batting practice prior to Thursday's game, and while he stated his availability to pinch-hit, the Rays could explore another option to get the center fielder -- who has been sidelined since Sept. 8 with a left quadriceps strain -- back on the field.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he spoke with Upton on Thursday about the possibility of inserting the outfielder into right field until his legs are back to full throttle.
"It's just according to how his leg feels," Maddon said. "If it takes any kind of stress off his leg."
While the Rays skipper said the "biggest concern" is getting Upton's bat back, the Rays could still benefit from the 24-year-old's strong defense and well-above-average arm.
"If he's able to come back and play on the corner, I would not be opposed to that," Maddon said. "But we do want to get him back in center field. Then I would not be opposed to putting Fernando [Perez] on the corner."
"In the end, I want to get [Upton] back in there, and that will have to [depend on] how much he feels he can run. That would be the determining factor."
Upton, who reported "feeling better" on Thursday, wasn't opposed to the idea, but was skeptical since he has never played the corner outfield spots.
"I don't know [if it would help]," he said.
But if Upton is shooting to return on Saturday, as he hoped, that could be the best-case scenario for the Rays.
Since the injury occurred -- during the first inning of a Sept. 8 game at Fenway Park -- the Rays have slotted recent callup Perez in center field.
Easing Upton into the right-field corner, and later switching him with Perez, would boost a Rays outfield that has been without the services of speedy left fielder Carl Crawford (surgery on his right middle finger tendon) since Aug. 9.
Upton is the Rays' leader in stolen bases (42) and outfield assists (11), and at the time of the injury, was hitting .274 with a .382 on-base percentage.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.