TORONTO — Melvin Upton Jr.’s first game for his new team likely will be against the team he just left.
Upton is expected to start in right field Wednesday afternoon for the Toronto Blue Jays against the San Diego Padres with Jose Bautista, just coming off a toe injury, possibly starting at DH. Like all lineup proposals, it is subject to change but the Blue Jays did acquire Upton to play him.
Upton was acquired by the Blue Jays in a trade with the Padres on Tuesday. The Padres acquired minor league right-handed pitcher Hansel Rodriguez.
The Padres are at Rogers Centre for a three-game series with the Blue Jays but it wasn’t as easy for Upton as crossing the field to change dugouts.
Before he could officially join the Blue Jays he had to visit customs at Queenston, N.Y., about a 90-minute drive away.
"I guess I had to get a working visa," Upton said upon his return ""About an hour-and-a-half ride there, sat at border patrol for a little while, jumped in the car and came back. But it all went pretty smoothly."
Upton was at Rogers Centre more than two hours before game time and did get one at-bat, a fielder’s choice grounder in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter for Toronto in the 7-6 win over the Padres in 12 innings.
The outfielder will be used primarily against left-handed pitching and goes from a non-contending team in the Padres (43-58) to a contending team in the Blue Jays (57-44). The Blue Jays enter Wednesday’s games in second place in the American League East, two games behind the Baltimore Orioles. Upton played several seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.
"This is all where it started, in this division," Upton said. "I definitely know the cities, and it’s a tough division. But this is a really good ball club all around. It’s definitely not uncomfortable, and I’m definitely looking forward to it."
He will get tasted of life in the AL East on Friday when the Orioles visit Rogers Centre for a three-game series.
"We love everything Melvin did for us, the way he played, how he defended the field, how he swung the bat," Padres manager Andy Green said. "But we’re looking at what we’re going to do in the future. We want to give these younger guys a real look."
First, the Blue Jays must deal with the Padres and will be going for a three-game sweep.
The Padres have hit home runs in a club-record 24 straight games but it has not helped them win either of their first two games at Rogers Centre.
"It’s a fun thing to keep track of," said Alex Dickerson who has homered in three consecutive games including a three-run shot Tuesday. "And it’s showing that we’re able to create quick offense on a consistent basis. We’ve just got to be able to string that together more often."
The Blue Jays made an adjustment in the rotation for Wednesday, electing to go with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (7-11, 4.44 ERA) on Wednesday with three days’ rest against the Padres. Marco Estrada, the schedule starter on Wednesday, going Friday in the opener against the Orioles. The Blue Jays feel it is a better matchup.
The Padres will counter with right-hander Luis Perdomo (4-4, 6.93 ERA), who has never faced the Blue Jays before.
Dickey is 2-7 in 16 career games, including 13 starts, against the Orioles despite a 3.90 ERA so it was decided to pitch him against San Diego. He is 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA in four career starts against the Padres. He will be pitching on three days’ rest after allowing seven hits and six runs in three-plus innings in a 14-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday. He used only 72 pitches in the start and Josh Thole, his regular catcher, was slated to play Wednesday afternoon anyway in place of regular catcher Russell Martin who played all 12 innings Tuesday.
The 23-year-old rookie earned his fifth win of the season Friday when he worked a career-best seven innings, allowing four hits, one walk and two runs against the Washington Nationals. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in six of his past seven starts.
But the focus will be on Upton, who received a rousing ovation when he came to bat Tuesday.
When asked about facing his former team, Upton said. "I’ve thought about it, but man, it’s part of the game," Upton said. "You rarely see it happen in the same series, but I think, as professionals, we know that anything is a possibility. Luckily, it’s only for two games and we don’t have to play them again."