ARLINGTON -- Manager Joe Maddon believes that B.J. Upton's late-season resurgence had a lot to do with moving up to the No. 2 spot in the batting order.
Upton was hitting just .223 with 18 homers and 61 RBIs through the first five months of the season. Maddon then opted to move the center fielder near the top of the order, and he responded with some improved numbers.
The 27-year-old hit .356 with five homers and a .462 on-base percentage in the final 23 games of the year as Tampa Bay made a late push for the playoffs.
"By hitting him in the two-hole, all of a sudden better at-bats, more patient at the plate, accepting of his walks, driving the ball to all fields," Maddon said. "All these things started to happen in the two-hole."
"B.J. likes playing at this time of year," Maddon added later. "He is very comfortable with it, and I really believe we have seen in the past and you will see it again this year, the best of him, offensively, defensively, everything. ... But I'd say the ascension of B.J. at that moment in the two-hole has really benefitted us."
Upton hit in every spot of the order this year except eighth, but he spent most of the season batting fifth or sixth. He doesn't feel the move up in order changed his approach, but the Virginia native won't deny he became a different player at the plate down the stretch.
"It definitely has turned around the last month or so," Upton said. "Hopefully I can continue to contribute and keep going what I have going right now.
"[I'm] starting to see the ball a little bit better and not trying to do too much, and taking what they're giving me."
Upton finished his 2011 campaign hitting .243 with 23 home runs and 81 RBIs in 153 games.
Tough decisions loom on 25-man ALDS roster
ARLINGTON -- The Rays are expected to go with 14 position players and 11 pitchers when its 25-man American League Division Series roster is announced Friday.
Manager Joe Maddon indicated that some tough decisions would have to be made at a coaches' meeting scheduled for late Thursday afternoon to finalize the configuration of his roster.
The most likely scenario, though, has Tampa Bay going with a four-man rotation and a seven-man bullpen while Maddon will take a look at the matchups to make the final call on position players.
"Honestly, we are still dealing with all of these things," said Maddon, whose team arrived at Rangers Ballpark late Thursday afternoon. "What we normally do is we pass out a little piece of paper, kind of an exercise between the coaches, and everybody filled it out on the plane.
"So when we go into this meeting, everybody will have some clear thoughts about what they think."
Maddon will ultimately have to decide whether to carry three catchers on the roster and evaluate at the possibility of adding an extra right-handed-hitting outfielder considering the Rangers' depth with lefty relievers.
"We'll get it done," Maddon said. "We're pretty good at this.
"We will set up in the coaches' room in the ballpark in a couple of minutes and will go through that exercise."
Gomes, McGee key cogs of Rays' bullpen
ARLINGTON -- Brandon Gomes and Jake McGee have been coming on strong out of the Rays' bullpen late in the season, and manager Joe Maddon offered up a nice compliment to each of the rookie relievers on Thursday.
"You look at how we have gotten to this point, nobody has talked about Jake McGee and Brandon Gomes," Maddon said. "How about these guys? These are two rookies that came up and for a while couldn't throw. Gomes had a little harder time with the strike, but Jake was throwing strikes in the wrong part of the plate. And all of a sudden they get to this point and [Gomes] is throwing harder than he has all season, and all of a sudden Jake is making pitches."
Gomes, who is right-handed, is 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 40 games this season. And he has dialed it up a notch in September, pitching in 12 games during the month and going 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA while allowing just four hits. In addition, he walked just two batters while striking out 10 in eight innings.
"Getting more comfortable getting out there, learning from the guys who are around me -- [Joel] Peralta, [Juan] Cruz, and J.P. [Howell] and those guys," said Gomes when asked about his recent success. "Everybody in the bullpen, really, has been great in helping me out in different situations and how to attack hitters. Getting the experience of getting innings in different situations, that's the biggest thing."
McGee, who is left-handed, is 5-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 37 appearances this season. He is 4-1 in September with a 3.86 ERA, including eight strike outs and a walk over 9 1/3 innings.
McGee says he now feels like he belongs.
"I feel like I belong now," McGee said. "I feel like pitching I've pitched in some big situations, and that's going to help me in the long run."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.