Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

How long should Braves give Upton to show improvement?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As you've probably heard by now, Melvin Emanuel (B.J.) Upton reported to camp Monday. By any name you want to use, he's still a guy who has hit .198 over two seasons with the Braves but has three years and $46.35 million left on his contract, which means he's not going anywhere.

Upton was professional, answering all questions the media threw at him. He said the decision to go by Melvin for the first time in his career was basically about honoring his father, not about some cleansing for the past two seasons.

"Really, it had nothing to do with starting a new chapter," Upton said. "I just wanted to. Like I said, my father thought enough to give me his name, so why not?"

I'll have more from Upton and others in a full column on

For now, here's my question: How long should the Braves give him? They obviously tried to trade Upton all winter, looking for any team that would pay an acceptable portion of his contract (whatever "acceptable" is), just to get him out of Atlanta. Not surprisingly, they didn't succeed.

It's difficult to see a scenario in which Upton is so bad in the spring that it would prompt the Braves to reverse field and cut him loose before the season. Their hope is that a new season, new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, new teammates and maybe even the absence of pressure from playing with his brother, Justin Upton, will help him elevate his production.

Do you agree with that philosophy?

John Hart, the Braves' new president of baseball operations, inherited the Upton contract. He said he will leave it up to manager Fredi Gonzalez to put the best players on the field, regardless of salary level.

Here's my guess about what happens: Upton begins the season as the starting center fielder. He will remain the starting center fielder for at least six weeks to two months. If his at-bats are solid and his confidence seems to be in a good place, Gonzalez will leave him there. If not, Gonzalez will put Upton on the bench and/or have him be part of a rotation (like probably so many other positions ).

That's probably the best approach. As much as most fans would like Upton to just go away, teams just don't do that with so much money left on a contract.

But I'll put the question to you: How long should the Braves give Upton to improve before putting him on the bench?


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.