Upton Jr. closing in on rehab assignment

Upton Jr. closing in on rehab assignment

PHOENIX -- What has transpired under the radar in Padresland is Melvin Upton Jr.'s continued improvement from a debilitating left foot injury.

What was diagnosed as sesamoiditis - or inflammation of the sesamoid bone in the foot -- has forced Upton Jr. to miss most of Spring Training with the Braves and the first six weeks of the regular season since the trade that brought the outfielder to the Padres along with closer Craig Kimbrel.

Upton has been at extended Spring Training at the club's complex in nearby Peoria, Ariz., and he's getting closer and closer to complete health and joining the team. According to Padres manager Bud Black, Upton Jr. could be activated from the disabled list as soon as June 1.

"He's getting closer to game activity," Black said before Saturday's third game of a four-game series against the D-backs at Chase Field. "He's been at Peoria rehabbing, getting great treatment from our physical therapist and getting all the drills done he needs to prepare to play. April has been his Spring Training.

"He's running. He's hitting. He's moving great."

Fred Uhlman Jr., the team's assistant general manager, said he was in Peoria watching Upton Jr. take batting practice and that it was beginning to look like his swing was coming back. The plan now is for him to play in an extended Spring Training game on Tuesday and then go out on a 20-day Minor League rehab assignment shortly thereafter.

The timing couldn't have been more propitious. With first baseman Yonder Alonso going on the disabled list on Saturday because of a deep bruise in his right shoulder, center fielder Wil Myers has moved to first base.

The center-field slot will be filled for the time being by Will Venable and Abraham Almonte, who was called up from Triple-A El Paso to fill the spot on the 25-man roster vacated by Alonso.

That could eventually leave that spot wide open for Upton Jr., whose brother, Justin, is the left fielder.

"Right now it's a little early," Black said. "We'll see how it sorts out in a month after he gets back on the field and has 40 or 50 at-bats in the Minor Leagues. We'll see where the team is at that point."

To get Kimbrel, the Padres had to assume the $36.5 million over three seasons remaining on Upton Jr.'s original $75.25 million contract. The Braves signed Upton Jr. as a free agent out of Tampa Bay on Nov. 18, 2012, but realized little value from the deal. He hit .198 with 21 homers and 61 RBIs in his two years with the Braves.

The Padres are anxious to see if they can get any production for that money.

"We'll see how he plays," Black said. "I'll be more equipped to answer that when that day comes."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.