BALTIMORE -- B.J. Upton is full-speed ahead and expected to be in the Rays' lineup Monday night for the home opener against the Yankees.
Upton, who is in the final days of his recovery from left shoulder surgery, batted leadoff and played center field for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs on Thursday night. He went 0-for-2 -- he had two walks and was hit by a pitch, which grazed his shirt -- and stole two bases. He is scheduled to be the designated hitter on Friday night for the Stone Crabs, then play nine innings in center field Saturday.
"Everything's on schedule -- there's nothing that will indicate he will not be there," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "He stole a couple of bases. He's playing his defense. He's getting his at-bats. By the time he gets here, he'll probably have a regular Spring Training's worth of at-bats and running -- maybe even more. I'll be content he's ready to go."
Maddon is looking forward to Upton's return, speaking glowingly about how much Upton brings to the team.
"Here's a guy who can impact a game offensively on the bases and on defense with his arm," Maddon said. "He can impact a game in so many different ways. We love the other guys we've been utilizing, but B.J. is our center fielder.
"You saw what he did at the end of last year in the playoffs and the World Series. And again, from my perspective, he's not even near as good as he's going to be when he gets a couple of years under his belt."
Maddon believes Upton will be ready to go without any limitations.
"Just see how he feels," Maddon said. "When guys are coming off situations like this, you don't want to push too hard. But he's had adequate time, I think. I'm almost looking at it as a regular-season start for him.
"Everything is well. His shoulder's fine. His legs are in shape. That was a big concern for me; it wasn't the shoulder, it was his legs -- just making sure that that was all good. And I think he's answered that question for us."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.