PHOENIX – Almost exactly a year ago, Kirk Gibson and Don Baylor met with Justin Upton to reinforce a simple message: he did not need to carry the weight of the team on his shoulders. Upton took it to heart and ran with it to a career year and fourth-place finish in the NL MVP balloting.
Gibson said he sees Upton pressing again this season, so he held him out of the starting lineup Tuesday, for the second time in four days. Gibson said on his radio show Tuesday that he may keep Upton out for several more days. Upton has four hits and one RBI in his last 28-at bats and is hitting .243 with five home runs this season.
“We’re trying to get him going. Try a lot of things. We need him to relax, and we need him to get on a roll,” Gibson said.
“I think he is over-thinking. I think he is over-trying, and things aren’t coming natural to him. He’s tried a lot. He’s a little bit lost in who he really is, and he’s very frustrated as you can see. You hate to put so much importance on a guy, but he is obviously very important in our success.”
Upton, available after the D-backs’ 10-0 victory over Colorado, said he did not see any benefit from the time off but added, “I’m not holding my weight right now.” He was asked if he expected to play Wednesday.
“It’s hard to expect anything around here. I really don’t know. I’m going to come in tomorrow and wait until the lineup pops up on the screen like everybody else,” Upton said.
“I want to be on the field every single day, but at the same time, none of you all are blind, (Gerardo) Parra deserves to play. Whatever they need to do, they do. Today was pretty unproductive. I sat around and really didn’t do much. I’m still (ticked) off about the way I’m playing … and not playing.”
Asked if he expected to meet with Gibson, he said: “No. I don’t know if there’s much to be said.”
Upton hit .289 with career highs in doubles (39), homers (31), stolen bases (21) and RBIs (88) last year.
Asked if Upton were going to use Tuesday to take extra swings in the batting cage, Gibson said: “I hope he does no work today.”
“He hasn’t swung the bat well, but it is not because he has not taken enough swings. The last time he wasn’t playing (Saturday), I can’t fathom how many swings he took that day. It’s not from a lack of effort. I think he feels frustrated with the situation.”
“We just need to get the situation calmed down. We need to get him where he needs to be. It’s important for the team and our success.”
Upton, who has 20 RBIs, had been on a nice streak until recently, reaching base via a hit or a walk in 17 straight games through a two-hit game in an 8-5 victory over Milwaukee on May 26. He has one RBI since, and he dropped a fly ball down the right field line in a 7-1 loss in San Diego on Friday before getting the next day off, his first day off for non-injury reasons this season.
Upton suffered a bone bruise on his left thumb the first weekend of the season and missed four starts the following week after his thumb was drained.
Gibson said Upton’s playing schedule is “day-by-day right now. I might not play him tomorrow. We have an off day the next day. I don’t know. Today I knew I wasn’t going to play him.”