ST. PETERSBURG -- While B.J. Upton has certainly been more impressive in August between the white lines on the field, manager Joe Maddon thinks the biggest improvement has come between the center fielder's ears.
Upton, batting .315 with a .393 on-base and a .537 slugging percentage this month, has taken serious strides mentally, according to Maddon. And seeing the maturation of a player with as much physical talent and athleticism as Upton has been a more than welcome experience for the Rays' manager.
"I think he's mentally fighting right now. I mean that in a very positive way," Maddon said. "I've seen him really grow up over the past, I'd say, month. I've seen him really mentally take his game to another level. I'm enjoying watching it.
"You can easily get frustrated or impatient, and you can, but you should not. As long as the athlete doesn't put that on themselves, then you know it's going to come out on the right side. I just see him fighting right now, and I think it's great."
Maddon referred to Upton as now being "in the present tense all the time," putting previous mistakes and success alike behind him, and focusing more on the task at hand. The results have been evident for Upton, who already has more hits (17), doubles (six), home runs (two), RBIs (seven) and steals (five) than he did in the entire month of July.
In addition, Maddon has seen Upton performing better on defense and on the basepaths, despite a blunder Saturday that resulted in he and Gabe Kapler both being at third base.
"Everyone's always going to equate players by what they do offensively, but I think his baserunning has been better," Maddon said. "He's making good decisions on the bases, his defense is still among the best, and all of a sudden offensively, I think he's working better at-bats because he's fighting."