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Wright expects friend B.J. Upton to bounce back

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Mets third baseman David Wright was somewhat conflicted as he watched B.J. Upton struggle throughout last season. Along with having compassion, Wright also had to account for the fact that his childhood friend was now playing for the division-rival Braves.

"I think anybody who plays the game goes through one of those times where you don't feel like you're doing what you're capable of doing," Wright said. "You feel for him on one hand. But on the other hand, he's in our division. So you want to see him do well. But you don't want to see him do that well to where he is single-handedly beating you like he can."

Coming off a season in which he hit .184 with a .557 OPS, Upton is attempting to regenerate the promise that has surrounded him dating back to when he and Wright were growing up together in the southwest Virginia region known as Tidewater.

While the .227 (5-for-22) batting average Upton has generated through the Grapefruit League season's early portion might not generate optimism, the Braves center fielder impressed with the three plate appearances he compiled in Sunday's loss to the Mets.

Upton lined Zack Wheeler's first-pitch fastball to right-center field for a single in the first inning and then fouled off a couple of fastballs in the process of drawing a walk after falling behind with a 1-2 count against the Mets right-hander in the third inning. Further showing he is willing to hit the ball the other way more frequently than last year, he flew out to right field while facing Jose Valverde in the sixth.

"He is a guy who has the tools," Wright said. "I think coming into this year, he will be more comfortable with his surroundings and more comfortable with being one of the guys over there. I expect him to have a bounce-back year. He's got all the tools. It's just a matter of putting last year behind him and doing what he is capable of doing."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves, B.J. Upton, David Wright