Upton tries to take positive out of latest setback

Upton tries to take positive out of latest setback

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As he approached Friday's X-ray exam with a slight limp and a moderate level of discomfort in his left foot, Melvin Upton Jr. assumed he would need just a few days of rest. The Braves center fielder's optimistic outlook was erased when he was fitted for a walking cast and informed that he will likely be sidelined until May.

"I went into it thinking [I would be out] a week at the most or a couple days and it would be fine," said Upton, who earlier this week replaced his nickname (B.J.) with his birth name (Melvin). "The doctor saw some things [he] didn't like."

Supported by crutches and burdened by a cast that runs halfway up his left shin, Upton returned to Braves camp on Saturday morning to begin a rehab process that will delay his attempt to prove he is capable of rebounding from the two consecutive miserable seasons he has experienced with the Braves.

The X-ray and MRI exams performed on Friday diagnosed Upton with sesamoiditis (inflammation in the bone behind the ball of his foot), a condition that will prevent him from resuming most baseball activities until early April.

Upton will gain a better understanding of when he might return when the cast is removed in two weeks. He will then wear a walking boot for the next 4-6 weeks. Once the boot is removed, he will need a few weeks to condition and make the preseason preparations he had hoped to complete during Spring Training.

"It's frustrating, but at the same time, I'm going to try to take the positive out of it," Upton said. "At least it's now and not in August, when we're in the middle of a pennant race. It's something we can get a hold of now, knock it out and hope it's not anything we have to deal with again."

Upton said he did not begin feeling any left foot discomfort until after he reported to Spring Training earlier this week. Though he does not know exactly how he might have sustained this ailment, he knows that he had trouble pushing off his foot during Thursday's first full squad workout.

The veteran has hit .198 and produced a Major League-worst .593 OPS over the past two seasons. The Braves were entering this season planning to give him at least a couple of months to prove he can provide some value befitting of the $46.35 million he is owed over the next three seasons.

Now, the Braves will have to wait a little longer to see if they might still get some return on their heavy investment. In the meantime, they will spend the next few weeks evaluating how to best fill the center-field void with their current in-house candidates -- Eury Perez, Todd Cunningham, Eric Young Jr. and Zoilo Almonte.

"I'm at a point in my career where I don't let a lot of things get to me," Upton said. "The first thing I did was take the positive out of it -- it happened early. Mentally, I'm in a good spot and I like the way I've gone over the offseason. I work my hardest not to lose that. I'm pretty positive that I won't."

Mark Bowman is the Braves beat reporter for MLB.com. He has been covering the club since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.