ST. PETERSBURG -- B.J. Upton is making what the Devil Rays are calling a "short-term move" to third base and could be seen at the hot corner at Tropicana Field within the coming weeks.
According to Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations, the club will move the highly touted shortstop to third base at Triple-A Durham. Once Upton feels comfortable at the position and those evaluating his performance are confident he can make the transition, he will be called up to the Rays to fill the spot vacated by Aubrey Huff's departure to the Astros in a trade Wednesday.
"We haven't put a specific timetable on this, with the idea being for him to move over and get comfortable at that position," Friedman said. "There's an obvious hole there after the Huff trade. [It will happen] as soon as we feel he's comfortable. That could be two weeks, it could be longer. It's hard to say."
Friedman classified the move as "short-term" because it is hard for management to forecast what is going to happen at shortstop. Julio Lugo, who will be a free agent at the end of this season, occupies the position and has played well. This has created a situation where the Rays would like to keep him, but his success has created demand among other teams, so he could be moved before the July 31 trading deadline.
If Lugo is not a Devil Ray next season, the club will evaluate other factors. Upton has continued to play erratically at shortstop. He has 28 errors at Durham this season after committing 53 in 2005.
"It's not us giving up on him as a shortstop," Friedman said. "If things stay status quo, Lugo's our shortstop for the rest of the year, whether we re-sign him or not. In the offseason, we'll reconvene and put our heads together to figure out the right course of action for Upton going forward."
Friedman said he has been talking to Upton about the possibility of playing some third base since talks involving Huff began to intensify.
"I talked to him and it was a very good reaction," Friedman said. "He's very team oriented. He still sees himself as a shortstop, and that's great. But he's also anxious to help the team out any way he can. He understands this is a short-term thing. We'll see how this takes form over time."
Upton played 11 games at third base for the Rays in 2004, when he hit .258 with four home runs and 12 RBIs.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.