- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. (AP) - Tampa Bay’s B.J. Upton was activated from the 15-day disabled list before Monday night’s home opener against the New York Yankees.

The Rays immediately inserted the 24-year-old center fielder into the leadoff spot of the lineup and dropped second baseman Akinori Iwamura to eighth against right-hander Chien-Ming Wang.

Upton played most of last season with a left shoulder injury that affected his performance at the plate. After hitting .300 with 24 homers and 82 RBIs in 2007, he slipped to .273 with nine homers and 67 RBIs in 2008.

Upton shone in the postseason, though, tying an AL record with seven homers during the team’s run to the World Series. He had surgery in November and did not participate in big league games during spring training while rehabbing his non-throwing shoulder.

“B.J.’s a big part of what we’re doing here,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He sets up our defense in the outfield. He’s going to hit leadoff for us. He’s a threat speed- and power-wise at the top of the batting order. He presents a different look to the opposition.”

The Rays opened a spot on the roster Sunday, when Matt Joyce was optioned to Triple-A Durham.

Upton said it was difficult remaining behind at the club’s spring training complex in Port Charlotte while the AL champions opened the season with a six-game road trip to Boston and Baltimore.

But after playing with a sore shoulder most of last season, he’s relieved to have the problem corrected.

“I can go out and play my game,” Upton said. “There’s no limitations.”

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