Justin Upton still searching: 'It’s not happening'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers' Justin Upton is hitting below .200 in the month of August.

Seattle — Justin Upton sat in front of his locker, staring blankly at his cell phone.

When two reporters approached, he grimaced slightly knowing the line of questioning that was coming. But he didn’t wave them away and he didn’t mince his words.

“I’m just playing like (crap) right now,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “I’m not hitting the ball. I’m not seeing the ball that well. I’m not able to slow the game down. It’s not happening.”

Upton was 1-for-14 in the three losses in Seattle. He struck out six times and hit into two double plays. Since the beginning of August, he’s hitting .176 (6-for-34), with no extra base hits, 11 strikeouts and four double-play balls.

“I’m sure he’s frustrated,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “The day off tomorrow will be good for him.”

Upton isn’t buying that.

“I’m not fatigued, I’m just playing bad,” he said. “There’s no other way to cut it.”

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He hasn’t had a day off since the All-Star break, and with injuries to key offensive players J.D. Martinez earlier and now Cameron Maybin and Nick Castellanos, he’s not likely to get many down the stretch.

“Obviously with guys going down, I need to step up,” Upton said. “I can’t have a day off. I need to figure out a way to be productive.”

It’s not been for a lack of work. He’s in the cage with hitting coaches Wally Joyner and David Newhan every day. He’s tweaked his swing mechanics several times. But every time it looks like he’s starting to find himself — he hit .324 in the 10 games before this recent drought — he regresses.

“I’m preparing,” he said, his voice going even quieter. “I’ve just been struggling, man. There’s nothing different that I am doing. I’m trying new stuff in the cage. I’m trying to fix it. It’s just not clicking.”

Twitter: @cmccosky