Move to two-hole pays big dividends for Upton

Move to two-hole pays big dividends for Upton

Move to two-hole pays big dividends for Upton
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.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for 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.