6/5/2013 6:03 P.M. ET
B.J. Upton starting to show signs of finding swing
By Jon Cooper / Special to MLB.com
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."
Slick-fielding Simmons in groove with lumber
ATLANTA -- It's no secret Andrelton Simmons is a hit in the field.
Now he's becoming one of baseball's best-kept secrets hitting out of the leadoff spot.
The consistency with which Simmons has been getting the job done -- his first-inning infield hit against Pittsburgh's Wandy Rodriguez on Wednesday afternoon extended his hitting stark to a career-long 11 games -- has been something of a surprise, even to him.
"It kind of snuck up on me," said Simmons, who is hitting .360 (18-for-50) during the streak after his 2-for-5 effort in Wednesday's 5-0 win. "Some days I've been feeling good, some days not so good, but still, I'm going up there and battling every at-bat, trying to make contact, trying to get good pitches to hit and not swing at bad pitches or minimize the times I swing at bad pitches. Just try to make good contact, and sometimes they'll fall."
They've been falling plenty for Simmons, who is batting .259, the highest his average has been since May 10. He was hitting .229 at the start of play on May 25 against the New York Mets at Citi Field. He went 2-for-5 that day and was off on a tear, as that marked the first of five multihit games during his hit streak.
Simmons has been doing more out of the leadoff spot, since he's decided to scale back his expectations.
"It took a little bit to not try [too hard], just let it happen. Just do what I'm supposed to do instead of trying to do stuff," he said. "Lately I haven't been trying to do anything. Just go up there, and it's becoming more automatic."
As automatic as he's been in the field.
"I'm a defensive guy. So going out there and making all the plays is my premier thing," Simmons said. "Whenever I get an at-bat, I try to put good at-bats up and drive in runs or get on base. But whenever I'm in the field -- most of the time I'm on the field more than hitting -- I try to do that and focus on keeping that top notch."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.