CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Justin Upton took a while to hit his first home run in a Tigers uniform, but he made it a big one, then another, hitting two tape-measure drives to the depths of Bright House Field in the Tigers' 6-5 win on Saturday against the Phillies. Upton, signed in
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Justin Upton took a while to hit his first home run in a Tigers uniform, but he made it a big one, then another, hitting two tape-measure drives to the depths of Bright House Field in the Tigers' 6-5 win on Saturday against the Phillies.
Upton, signed in January to a six-year contract, entered Saturday batting 7-for-37 (.189) this spring with one extra-base hit, two RBIs, eight walks and 15 strikeouts. He went 4-for-4 on Saturday.
"He has a track record," manager Brad Ausmus said, "and he's not at an age where you would start to worry about him. So I think everybody knew it was coming. It was just a matter of when it clicked."
Upton said he had been feeling more comfortable at the plate the last four days, just not getting the results to show for it. He wasn't worried necessarily, but maybe a litte frustrated.
"It's part of the process," Upton said. "Some springs it comes earlier, some springs it comes later, but you know it's going to come at some point. You have to stay the course."
Once the results came, they didn't stop. In some ways, it was a microcosm of his reputation as a streaky hitter.
"He's a hitter that when he's right, it's impressive," teammate Justin Verlander said. "He can carry a ballclub by himself."
A first-inning offspeed pitch from Phillies lefty James Russell set up Upton for by far his best result this spring. Upton sent the ball over the left-field tiki bar and nearly out of the park altogether. The ball landed against the back fence as Upton rounded the bases, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
"I was just reacting," Upton said. "That's a plus when you're seeing the ball well, even the offspeed pitches. That's part of the plan."
An opposite-field single next time up earned Upton his second multihit game this spring. He punctuated the afternoon by pummeling a Luis Garcia pitch to the deepest part of the park, just to the left of the center-field batter's eye. Again, Upton cleared the berm, hitting the walkway behind it. The ball bounced over the back fence and into a parking lot beyond.
Upton's fourth hit of the day was a single in eighth, before he was replaced by pinch-runner Ben Verlander, who came around to score.
If 800-plus feet of home runs are a sign of Upton heating up, he's doing so at just about the right time. The Tigers open their regular season in 10 days in Miami.
"You want to get it going anytime that you can," Upton said. "If you can get it going later and ride it into the season, it's nice."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.