Upton showing signs of heating up at plate

Upton showing signs of heating up at plate

Upton showing signs of heating up at plate
KANSAS CITY -- D-backs outfielder Justin Upton has had slow starts before, very recently, as a matter of fact.

Upton was hitting just .240 on May 22, 2011. But he managed to finish the season strong. Upton made the National League All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger Award and finished fourth in the National League MVP Award voting.

Baseball players say that it's not how you start, it's how you finish. They say it a lot. And in Upton's case, there's truth to that statement.

Well, after another slow start in 2012, it looks like Upton might be heating up. Since May 14, the right fielder was hitting .294 with a .478 on-base percentage entering Saturday's game against the Royals.

Upton also had walked six times and struck out just three, clubbing one home run, picking up four RBIs and scoring five times. On Friday night against the Royals, Upton went 2-for-3 with a walk and scored three runs in the D-backs' 6-4 win.

"I'm seeing the ball pretty decent the last couple games," Upton said. "It's still a work in progress, but the season's a process. Sometimes you start hot, sometimes you start cold, but you stick to your routine and should be fine."

As for the increased number of walks, Upton said he's improved his recognition of pitches not thrown inside the strike zone.

"It's a combination of seeing the ball better and pitchers just not throwing strikes," Upton said. "I think early on I was chasing out of my zone a little bit. I have done a better job of making sure the pitches are in the zone. I also haven't been seeing many pitches over the plate."

Fellow outfielder Chris Young came back from the disabled list on Friday just in time to see Upton start swinging the bat better.

"He's always going to be a confident player," Young said. "He's a great player. He's going to be just fine. He had a rough patch early in the season last year, and the next thing you know, he's getting MVP votes. He always has that in the tank, and it's just a matter of when it's going to come out."

The beginning of Interleague play bodes well for Upton, too. Since 2009, Upton has the third-highest Interleague batting average in baseball, a mark of .373, and his Interleague on-base percentage of .451 ranks second, trailing only Albert Pujols.