Recently we noted that BJ Upton seemed to have lost some of his bat speed. We wondered if he was still experiencing pain from the shoulder injury he suffered earlier this year during a swing. And then this morning John Romano just casually mentions that Upton has a torn labrum in his shoulder and will need surgery this off-season.

Upton has a torn labrum in his left shoulder. It prevents him from swinging the bat with authority. It caused the shoulder to pop out of its socket in May, and it will require him to have surgery in the offseason.

Huh-wha?!?! How did we not know this? Why does Romano write that third paragraph as if it is just common knowledge? We went back and searched the archives to see if this had been reported earlier. Maybe we missed it…Nothing.

We had also wondered why Upton seemed to take so many fastballs this season despite having such quick wrists. Turns out Upton is afraid of aggravating the injury.

It is a subject Upton talks about reluctantly, and the Rays would prefer to keep it that way. It does no good to acknowledge one of the team’s centerpieces is in constant discomfort. Or that he occasionally lets pitches go by because he’s wary of certain angles when he swings.

When Upton is swinging well, he has one of the quickest bats in baseball. That is why a player as frail as Upton was able to hit 24 home runs last season despite missing a month of the season. This season he has 8.

“If I could swing the way I wanted to, there would be less doubles and more homers,” Upton said. “A lot of my doubles have been off the wall or they one-hop the wall. If I could have really put a full swing into it, I think the story would be a little different.”

I cannot emphasize enough how painful this must be for Upton. I once suffered the same injury. I couldn’t even lift my arm over my head without surgery.

Unfortunately for the Rays, other teams certainly are already aware of this. We are sure they know the pitch-locations that Upton avoids. That he is still able to maintain a solid OBP (.381) is testimony to just how great Upton can be.

Shoulder issue pains Rays’ Upton [St. Pete Times]

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8 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    now maybe everybody will start appreciating what this kid is doing this year.

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  2. Jason from PA says:

    He will be a monster next year when this is all healed up =)

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  3. John says:

    Yeah, I saw the same thing in the paper today. Romano definitely buried the lede there.

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  4. Robert Rittner says:

    I cannot believe you are criticizing this wonderful article which focuses almost entirely on Upton's courage, determination and effort.

    Perhaps you noticed that the headline identifies the key issue and that the first paragraph simply creates some context for the point while the second reiterates that he is suffering pain.

    This is the second article in recent weeks in which Romano has written a column lauding Upton and contradicting the foolish criticisms of uninformed fans. It is typical of his grounded sense of fair play and balanced essays that avoid sensationalizing while providing information and substance.

    There is nothing buried in the article. It is perfectly within the conventions of correct journalistic style. And thankfully, while eliciting more respect for Upton, it avoids the sloppy sentimentality and tearful special pleading often the staple of other columnists around the country. We should appreciate that.

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  5. The Professor says:

    usually I at least understand your point. I don't always agree but I at least see where you are coming from. This time I am at a loss. In no way was I critical. I was merely surprised how non-chalant the surgery seemed to be presented. To me that seems like a huge news item.

    Part of the problem here is Romano is a columnist so he is usually reacting and building on news that has already been reported. And that seemed to be how he wrote this piece.

    Again. Not critical. It just read as if the news was already known to all.

    As for upton my concern is more how this affects the team and Upton moving forward and I am less concerned with how Upton has been treated by the fans.

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  6. Robert Rittner says:

    I did read your comments as criticism of Romano. That apparently was a misreading of your intention. Sorry for that.

    I do not remember any references to a torn labrum either, but I know I have been reading stories about his shoulder injury all year. I have to say nothing surprised me in the article because of all the season-long speculation that Upton's power outage might have been due to some injury. The point that Upton might indeed have an injury was certainly underscored by the recent article that Maddon had excused him from batting practice.

    Nor did I find anything casual in the article. Romano does have access to the clubhouse and probably probed to get more details on a story that had been around for a while.

    I agree with you that the effect on the team and on Upton's future are more important than fan reaction. Seems to me he does deal with that, but the implication in the article is a rebuff to the popular misconception about Upton, both by fans and by some talk show hosts.

    I also think the lack of urgency in the discussion of the surgery reflects the accepted view by the Rays and Upton that it is a minor issue and will not have any long term effects. As you know, the Rays are extremely cautious about injuries, and it is likely that if they continue to allow him to play they are not terribly concerned.

    As an aside, I think it is generally accepted by all the local columnists and reporters that Upton is very popular in the clubhouse and is a really nice person. Not relevant to your posting, but I wanted to re-emphasize the point.

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  7. DirtbagFan says:

    Too bad he can't blame his constant baserunning gaffes, and overall general laziness on his shoulder... then we could all gather around the campfire and sing praises to the Bossman(Junior).

    Upton's a good player but still (in my ever-so-humble opinion) gets way more credit than he deserves at this point in his career.

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  8. Robert Rittner says:

    There is not an iota of evidence that he is lazy. There is some that he has made mistakes on the field, but every credible source who knows him, plays with him, interviews him, his supervisors and his teammates or otherwise has immediate knowledge of him testifies without qualification that he is a dedicated, hard-working and committed ballplayer who is a great team player.

    It is only smug and self-righteous fans hung up on locker room slogans in place of rational thought who slander his character.

    He is by no means a perfect player, and he still does have lapses of judgment, but he continues to be a major asset to the Rays and thankfully the organization knows that. Terrible organizations focus on players' flaws, what they do poorly. Excellent organizations focus on players' strengths and work to correct the flaws without tarring the player with epithets and character assassination. The same categories exist for fans.

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