High expectations have followed Justin Upton ever since the Arizona Diamondbacks made him the first overall pick of the 2005 First Year Amateur Draft. His rise through the Arizona minor league system could best be described as meteoric going from Single-A to Double-A to the Major Leagues becoming the youngest player ever to start a game for the Diamondbacks. His quick arrival at the major league level forced some decisions that perhaps the Diamondbacks were not ready for or miscalculated. For all intents and purposes if Upton had gone on a traditional path to the major leagues he would probably be in Triple-A Reno to start this season with hopes of a late season call-up. This would have given the Diamondbacks some time to decide what to do with their outfield and might have kept Carlos Quentin in a D-Backs uniform instead of being sent to Chicago to clear a path in the outfield. Instead Upton began the 2009 season as he did the 2008 season as the starting right fielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
I’m sure everyone would agree including Justin Upton that the 2009 season did not begin the way he expected it to. Through the games of the season Upton struggled and struggled mightily. He went 0-15 to start with and began to hear boos from the fans at Chase Field. Talk show hosts on radio and television questioned his abilities and felt perhaps Justin had been rushed to the big leagues and would benefit from some time at Triple-A Reno. Manager Bob Melvin and the player development staff urged patience and suggested that Upton should be given some time to work things out. But on a team that was underachieving and exhibiting a woeful lack of offense no one wanted to hear about patience. Still Justin was allowed to try and work things out and began to exhibit some signs of breaking out of his personal slump.
At first the hits came sporadically and were a little inconsistent but soon they happened with more regularity. Upton really began to blossom as the team left Chase Field and started on the first extended road trip. Going into the road trip Upton had a small hitting streak going. That streak continued on the road and currently stands at 13 games. Not only was Upton hitting but he was hitting the ball hard driving in runs and making opposing pitchers look foolish in the process.
Tonight was yet another coming out party for Justin Upton both offensively and defensively. He faced former Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy in the spacious Petco Park which has a tendency to beat down hitters and in the process showed everyone why patience can some time be a virtue.
In the sixth inning Peavy walked Augie Ojeda who was on first base when Upton came to the plate. He took a Peavy fastball that got a little too much of the plate and Upton delivered the ball in left center field in the cool heavy night time air of San Diego giving his team a 2-0 lead. Upton came up again in the eighth inning and pounced on a pitch from former Diamondback and current Padres reliever Duaner Sanchez and put it over the centerfield wall for a solo home run.
Justin Upton provided all the offense the Diamondbacks needed to give Jon Garland the lead and ultimately the win but Upton’s night was not just about how well he was swinging the bat. In the fifth inning with a man on third Upton caught a fly ball and then gunned down the tagging runner at the plate to preserve the shut-up and stopping a Padres rally.
So maybe this time the manager, coaching staff, and Upton himself were right. Maybe the fans do need to practice a little patience and let the hitters work through their problems. It might not be such an issue if the entire team was not in a prolonged slump that never seems to end.