Former teenage star Upton relates to Harper
No. 1 pick in 2005 made big league debut at age 19
WASHINGTON -- D-backs outfielder Justin Upton has something in common with Nationals phenom Bryce Harper -- both were No. 1 overall picks in the First-Year Player Draft.
Harper, who made his home debut for the Nats against the D-backs on Tuesday, was the top pick of the 2010 Draft, while Upton was selected first by the D-backs in 2005.
"I don't know if I can relate with the attention," Upton said. "He's drawing national attention, but any No. 1 pick, there are expectations that come with that. They expect an early turnaround on their investment, and there is a lot of pressure with that."
Like Harper, Upton also made his Major League debut at the age of 19, though the D-backs outfielder was just a few weeks shy of his 20th birthday when he got the call in 2007. Harper will not turn 20 until Oct. 16.
Physically, Upton was ready for the jump, but there was still much to learn about the subtle intricacies of the game. There were also the mental challenges that come with struggling for the first time on a baseball field.
"Obviously to get to this level, you have to be confident in your abilities physically and what you can do on the field, but there's a mental side of it too that takes a while to really get a grasp of," Upton said. "You never learn everything in this game, but once you get a grasp how to deal with a 162-game schedule physically and emotionally, you start to hone in on your abilities.
"There will be times this game will stress you out and your abilities aren't able to really flourish on the field. When you're able to harness that and refocus yourself when times aren't great, that's when the game comes to you."
Upton was an All-Star in 2009, and he had his finest professional season in 2011, when he hit .289 with 31 homers and 88 RBIs.
Like everyone else in the game, Upton will be interested to see how Harper's career progresses.
"He's obviously a very talented player and he's going to play for a long time," Upton said. "I think until you realize that, 'Hey, I'm here to stay, I belong,' it's a bit of a transition, but he seems to have a pretty good feel for the pressure and expectations. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy who is going to let it get under his skin, so he'll be fine.
"Obviously he's going to struggle at some point, and that's when you really find out what you're made of. That's when I figured out what I was made of. It's a fun ride and I think he definitely seems ready for it."
Ransom to get more playing time at third
WASHINGTON -- Cody Ransom will get additional playing time at third base for the D-backs with Ryan Roberts still struggling to find his stroke at the plate.
"I'll keep playing him on and off," manager Kirk Gibson said of Roberts. "Right now Cody has done a great job for us recently, and he's going to play more than he normally would."
Coming into Tuesday's game with the Nationals, Roberts was mired in an 0-for-11 and 1-for-28 slump.
"I think he's one hit away from being out of it," Gibson said. "I've watched the quality of his work, and he's tried to correct some things he's doing. This is a great situation: He's on the bench, he has the chance to come in and have an impactful at-bat."
Ransom, who opened the year with Triple-A Reno, is hitting .318 with a pair of homers in 22 at-bats.
While the results don't show it, Gibson does think that Roberts' frame of mind is better of late.
"I just saw him overthinking things, and now I just think he's in a better place," Gibson said. "I think he's started to relax more."
Goldschmidt aims to reward Gibson's faith
WASHINGTON -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said recently that he felt like first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is on the verge of breaking out of his offensive funk.
"I'd like to make him look right, I really would," Goldschmidt said before Tuesday's series opener with the Nationals.
Goldschmidt did just that in a 5-1 win over Washington on Tuesday, going 3-for-4 with a run scored.
Goldschmidt was called up from Double-A Mobile last Aug. 1, and was a key contributor for the D-backs in their run to the National League West title.
This year, though, it's been a struggle for him. The 24-year-old entered play Tuesday mired in a 1-for-18 slump, and he was hitting .193 with one homer, which he hit on Opening Day.
"I feel better," Goldschmidt said. "The last couple of games have been better. I've hit some balls hard, which has been nice. I feel like there's been some games obviously that haven't been pretty for me, but I don't think there's ever been a time where I've felt awful. There have been times I've felt a little off here or there. I haven't been consistent. That's the main thing -- good swings here and there, bad swings here and there. To have that in this game is not good."
Gibson said he liked what he's seen of Goldschmidt in the batting cage.
For his part, Goldschmidt said he could not put his finger on exactly what the difficulty was.
"When you're struggling, it's not one thing," Goldschmidt said. "It's just part of the game. Everyone goes through it. It happens, and you have to just keep battling and find other ways to help the team. It could be a walk, defense, baserunning, moving a runner over with a quality at-bat, or be ready to come off the bench if you're not playing. You can't get frustrated. You have to try and find other ways to help the team."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.