PHOENIX — He may still have a home in the Valley, but the Valley is no longer home for Justin Upton, the one-time Arizona Diamondback who spent six seasons wearing Sedona red.
“Home is where you play,” he said. “I still live here so it’s nice to get to my own bed, but other than that, as far as coming to the stadium, I’m on the other team.”
Upton is back in the town, making his second trip since the Diamondbacks traded him in the 2013 offseason to the Atlanta Braves. He and Chris Johnson were dealt for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill.
Upon his return last season, Upton held a pregame press conference in front of roomful of reporters. A year later, the gathering was considerably smaller in front of his locker in the visitor’s clubhouse prior to the series opener on Friday.
“Seems like normal business now. Last year was a little bit different, obviously the first time,” he said, before turning his attention back to present day. “It’s a stop on our schedule.”
Much like his first year in Atlanta, Upton has gotten off to a strong start, leading the Braves in hitting (.291), home runs (13) and RBI (34).
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been able to hit pretty consistently. I’ve hit for power a little bit. The numbers are there; just got to continue to work the way I’ve been working and see what happens at the end.”
One noticeable change with Upton is his location in the outfield. No longer is he a right fielder, where he played with the Diamondbacks. The two-time All-Star has made the permanent move to left field, a position he played for the first time last season.
“It’s a little different,” he said. “Got a lot righties pulling the ball and the ball comes off the bat different every time. It’s obviously a little bit of a challenge going from right field, but at the end of the day, that’s where I play and I got to work hard at it.”
For Upton, there are very few familiar faces left in the Diamondbacks dugout. He mentioned he still checks in on Gerardo Parra and a couple of others from afar and also Brandon McCarthy with whom he’s friends with.
Upton’s primary focus though is right in his own backyard, keeping the Braves atop the National League East, where they entered play heading into the weekend series against the Diamondbacks.
“I think about halfway through the year last year I was pretty comfortable in Atlanta,” he said. “This year has been better. I know the people a little bit better. I’m more comfortable in the clubhouse. It’s been good.”