Upton Jr. looks back on his time with Rays

Upton Jr. looks back on his time with Rays

TORONTO -- Melvin Upton Jr. -- known to Rays fans as B.J. -- thought the Padres' visit to Tropicana Field on Aug. 15 would have marked his first game against the Rays -- the team that selected him with the second overall pick of the 2002 Draft and the organization in which he grew up to become a Major Leaguer.

Alas, before the Padres could visit Tropicana Field, Upton was traded to American League East-rival Toronto.

"Yeah, I was actually looking forward to going back to Tampa coming up [with the Padres]," said Upton before Monday night's game. "But even better with Toronto. Get to go home three times a year."

Upton signed a free-agent contract with the Braves after the 2012 season and did not play well. The Braves finally traded him to the Padres on the eve of the 2015 season. When asked about his struggles, Upton surmised that he "just never quite got comfortable over there."

"Just didn't work," he said. "I definitely feel like I'm back to myself. Obviously there's always room to improve. I like where I'm at right now. Not off to a great start since changing teams. But it will come. It's nothing I'm stressing about. Just part of the game.

"...Obviously it's been awhile. Rocky road to start, man. Got traded to San Diego, got comfortable. Had fun. And now I'm a Blue Jay."

Upton allowed that it has been strange that he'd never played against the Rays. He also sounded like a fan of the Rays' current center fielder, Kevin Kiermaier.

"He's all over the place," Upton said. "I remember playing with him in Class A [while on injury rehab]. I knew he had it then. Obviously he showed it. He's done a great job for them. It's been pretty cool to watch."

Upton said it didn't feel like he'd been away from the Rays as long as he has.

"But thinking about it, it's been awhile," Upton said. "A lot of new faces over there. A lot of guys I didn't play with. Obviously [Evan Longoria is] still there."

Upton smiled when asked if he wished he would have stayed with the Rays instead of moving on.

"Haven't thought about it," he said. "But it's a place I'll always remember. It's where I started. I had a lot of good times there. I won't forget it."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.