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Maddon: Upton Won’t Make Opener

Posted Mar 22, 2009 by Tribune Sports

Updated Mar 22, 2009 at 01:11 PM

PORT CHARLOTTE – Rays manager Joe Maddon this morning all but ruled out the possibility center fielder B.J. Upton will be ready for the season opener April 6 at Boston.

“I doubt that,” Maddon said as his team was getting ready to play the Yankees in a sold-out Grapefruit League game at Charlotte Sports Park. “Yeah, I would say no.”

Upton has been making steady progress in his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery, and the fact he was starting to getting on the field and was projected to play in a Grapefruit League game this week offered hope he might make the opener.

But he suffered a minor setback yesterday when he was hit by a pitch on his lefty pinky finger while batting in a minor league game, sustaining a bruised bone.

Upton said this morning that while he expects to miss only a day or two on the field, the setback probably clinches the fact he won’t return before the home opener April 13 against the Yankees. The Rays play at Boston and Baltimore April 6-12.

“Obviously, I was pushing,” Upton said. “But I think they’re definitely going to take it a lot slower now.”

Maddon said there’s no specific projected date for Upton’s return but rather a general plan to plan to proceed cautiously. That was the Rays’ plan, anyway, and yesterday’s setback helps remove any temptation to accelerate the timetable.

“I want no rushing with this,” Maddon said. “You saw what it was like last year when he was injured and played, and then what it was like when we backed off and how good he was in the playoffs.

“So you want to see that on a more consistent basis. We want to give him every chance to be that guy.”

Upton played with a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder all of last year. His power numbers increased dramatically in the postseason after the Rays starting giving him more rest. After hitting nine home runs in the regular season, Upton hit seven in the postseason.

The 2008 team leader in on-base percentage (.383) and American League’s No. 2 base stealer (44), Upton was batting against right-hander Stephen Fife of Boston’s Triple-A team when he was struck in the left hand. He yelled in pain, dropped his bat and threw down his helmet, according to a report.

X-rays established that it was mainly a scare.

“It was just in so much pain, and my finger wouldn’t stop spasming,” Upton said. “So I was a little nervous, but I calmed down rather quickly [when] I could make a fist.”

Upton said team Dr. Koco Eaton was due at the Rays’ training complex today and apparently will look at the finger.

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