The Tampa Bay Rays will begin the 2012 regular season without their dynamic center fielder, B.J. Upton. Tampa Bay announced that, as a result of Upton’s violent collision with fellow outfielder Desmond Jennings, the 27-year-old will start the season on the team’s disabled list.
Upton has been experiencing soreness in his lower back since he collided with Jennings while tracking a fly ball two weeks ago. Both players were running full speed when they ran into one another. Jennings’ shoulder connected with Upton’s lower back, and the pair remained on the ground for some time before they were carted off the field.
The Rays are hoping to have Upton back as soon as April 10 but have said that it could take up to a few weeks for the outfielder to return. Upton himself said that “there’s no timetable” for his return. All that he would provide reporters was that when he’s ready to go, he’ll be ready to go.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said that the club felt it necessary to remove the “finish line” that was being forced through the recovery process. This finish line that Maddon alluded to was Tampa’s target to have Upton ready to go for Opening Day.
With Upton and utility outfielder Sam Fuld out for the start the season, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times said several non-roster candidates have the potential to break camp with the Rays along with utilityman Elliot Johnson. Topkin listed Jesus Feliciano, Jeff Salazar, Will Rhymes and prospect Brandon Guyer as possibilities.
If the Rays are not satisfied with their in-house options, Topkin added that the club could look outside the organization to bring in a late-spring acquisition. Johnny Damon, anyone?
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