Return of B.J. Upton's power stroke the best news for Rays

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b.j. upton swinging.jpgWhile I’m pretty excited about David Price’s performance through two starts, the most promising development for the Rays during their 10-3 run to begin the season has been B.J. Upton’s power surge.
Upton, of course, looked for all of the world like a future superstar when he hit .300/.386/.508 with 24 homers in 474 at-bats as a 22-year-old in 2007. He went backwards in 2008, when he hit just nine homers, but he got on base 38 percent of the time again and then he rediscovered his power when he hit seven postseason homers.
As it turned out, Upton spent the 2008 season playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Still, judging from the power he showed in October, he seemed in position for a strong 2009 after shoulder surgery the previous November.
His power, though, was again missing in action, and this time the rest of his game fell apart with it. He hit just .204/.297/.290 in 45 games through the end of May. A big June followed (.324-5 HR-22 RBI), raising expectations yet again, but he was a complete bust the rest of the way. Outside of June, his best OPS in any month was 622. He had just six homers and 33 RBI in his remaining 455 at-bats for the season.
The ugly season, combined with the likelihood that the Rays would need to free up salary, led many to believe that Upton would be traded last winter. The Rays, though, never appeared to entertain serious conversations with other teams. Upton stuck around, enjoyed a nice spring and has opened the season with four homers and 11 RBI through 13 games. He’s hitting just .234, but he’s walked seven times and he has an 865 OPS.
Besides maybe Evan Longoria, Upton is the most gifted hitter on a Rays team that also features the 2009 AL co-home run leader in Carlos Pena, 2009 MVP candidate Ben Zobrist and three-time All-Star Carl Crawford. He’s not only a threat for 30 homers and 30 steals, but in two of his three full seasons, he’s had signiificantly better OBPs than Crawford has ever managed.
If this is the year the now 25-year-old Upton puts it together, then the Rays just might have the AL’s best offense. Zobrist and Jason Bartlett are in for sizable declines, but the Rays are bound to get better production from catcher and DH and Upton could very well go from a 686 OPS to something in the 900 range.

Gary Sanchez hits 20th homer, ties 86-year-old record

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Gary Sanchez #24 of the New York Yankees rounds first base on a 2-RBI double during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on August 26, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez blasted a two-run home run off of Red Sox starter David Price in the bottom of the first inning of Tuesday night’s game. It’s his 20th homer of the season, tying a record held by Wally Berger for the fastest to 20 homers, per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Both did so in 51 career games. Berger did so with the Boston Braves in 1930.

Sanchez came into Tuesday’s game hitting a ridiculous .315/.388/.690 with 19 home runs and 40 RBI in 209 plate appearances. He’s a big reason why the Yankees are still in contention for the American League Wild Card despite selling at the trade deadline.

Video: Sen. Marco Rubio pays his respects to Jose Fernandez

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 29:  Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is seen as he stops to thank volunteers at a phone bank on the final day before the Florida primary election on August 29, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Rubio is facing off against Carlos Beruff for the Republican primary.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) paid tribute to late Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez by recounting his life story and explaining the impact the right-hander had on his family, his community, and baseball fans.

No matter your politics, we can all recognize Rubio’s tribute to Fernandez as heartfelt and true.