B.J. Upton starting to show signs of finding swing

B.J. Upton starting to show signs of finding swing

B.J. Upton starting to show signs of finding swing

ATLANTA -- Braves fans have been waiting all season to see the B.J. Upton who has been on display the last couple of games of the club's current homestand.

Upton's game-tying homer in the sixth inning Tuesday night was his sixth of the season and his second in three games.

While the numbers haven't been there, Braves hitting coach Greg Walker believes it's certainly not due to lack of trying. Walker feels Upton's recent results are a case of the results catching up the outfielder's effort and positive attitude.

"This is my 11th year, and when you do this job for that long a time you're around a lot of guys that scuffle. Most of them get frustrated, start making excuses. He's not done any of that. He's just come to work every day," Walker said prior to Wednesday's series finale with the Pittsburgh Pirates. "He's frustrated, he's mad -- all the things that a human would be -- but as far as my experience with him, he's handled it about as well as anybody I've been around."

Upton, a career .255 hitter whose home run totals had ascended each of the past five seasons (nine in 2008, 11 in '09, 18 in '10, 23 in '11 and a career-high 28 last season) signed a five-year, $75.25 million free agent deal with the Braves in late November. Walker feels that Upton's slow start is in part due to self-inflicted pressure to live up to that contract.

"If you look around baseball right now, big-time free agents that change teams for the first time, most of them scuffle to start with," he said. "It's just the pressing, trying to do more, they're out of their comfort zone. I'm talking about really talented guys. B.J.'s no exception. He's come to a new team, a lot of pressure on him to get off to a good start, and probably just trying too hard."

Walker insists that Upton has worked just has hard to get out of the funk that had him hitting .154 entering Wednesday's matinee.

"This game is very difficult. It's a game of failure," he said. "I've seen Hall of Famers that have lost their confidence. But you look at them as learning experiences. It's a learning experience for him, it's a learning experience for me, and we just try to get better and get through it, and he's showing signs of doing that."

Walker is sure that Upton's walk-off, opposite-field single in the 10th inning on Saturday that beat Washington and completed Upton's sixth multihit game of the year helped him turn a corner.

"I know it did," he said. ""The key word is 'work.' Usually those guys end up figuring it out, just because of their will to work and compete.

"I think everybody in this clubhouse is pulling for him like crazy. Not only because we need him, but because he's such a good guy. They respect how he's gone about his business. He's come to work every day, so they respect him for that. They like him as a person and we all care about him."

Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.