LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It’s official: B.J. Upton is now Melvin Upton Jr. on your scorecard.
The Braves center fielder is listed as Melvin Upton Jr. on the Braves’ spring training roster, and Upton Jr. is on the back of the Braves jersey in his locker at spring training, the first time he’s had “Jr.” on his jersey in his professional career.
Braves pitchers and catchers began workouts Friday and the rest of the position players are due to report by Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout set for Thursday. So far, Upton hasn’t been among the early arriving position players.
Team officials confirmed he will go by Melvin Upton Jr. this year and would answer reporters’ questions about the decision when he arrived in camp.
Melvin Emanuel “B.J.” Upton is the son of Manny Upton, and has gone by “B.J.” throughout his amateur and professional career. Those initials stand for Bossman Junior, also a nod to his father, who has long been known as Bossman in their Hampton Roads area of Virginia.
Upton is coming off consecutive seasons that were the worst of his career and coincided with his first years in a five-year, $75.25 million contract, the largest free-agent deal the Braves ever gave a player. He’s hit a combined .198 with a .279 on-base percentage, .593 OPS, 21 home runs and 32 stolen bases in two seasons, with 324 strikeouts and 101 walks in 1,208 plate appearances.
In six full seasons and parts of two others with the Rays before coming to Atlanta, Upton hit .255 with a .336 OBP, .758 OPS, 118 home runs and 232 stolen bases, including three seasons with 23 or more homers and five consecutive seasons with more than 30 stolen bases.
After playing the past two seasons alongside his younger brother, All-Star left fielder Justin Upton, the eldest Upton sibling will be the only Upton on the 2015 Braves. They traded Justin and right fielder Jason Heyward, who were entering the final year of their contracts before free agency.
Braves president of baseball operations John Hart, during a conversation Sunday with Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz about new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, said unprompted, “He’s had some really good work with Melvin. Some really good sessions with Melvin.”
When asked if that’s the name Upton was going by now, Hart said, “You know, if that’s what he wants.” Did that mean Upton will be introduced that way when he comes to bat, when lineups are announced, etc.? “Yes he is,” Hart replied.