Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays get blame in Willy Adames demotion

MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays said what you would expect about sending top prospect Willy Adames back to Triple-A Durham after an unimpressive monthlong stint with them, that it will do him good to go back to playing, and playing shortstop, every day.

"We're fortunate to have a lot of talented infielders, but that's made it tough to get Willy the consistent reps that we'd like, especially with the All-Star break coming,'' senior vice president Chaim Bloom said Thursday. "This gives him a chunk of time to play every day at shortstop, which should only help him the rest of the way.''

But they also have to acknowledge that they were complicit in Adames' struggles, failing to put him in the typically obligatory "best position to succeed'' by not having the opportunity to play every day at the position they expect him not to just to man for years but to be a star.

How is the 22-year-old supposed to be the shortstop of the future if he can't be the shortstop of the present?

Manager Kevin Cash admitted as much when he called in a surprised Adames after Wednesday's home game to break the surprising news that he wouldn't be getting on the plane to Minnesota, telling him they had done him "an injustice" by playing him irregularly and at second base nearly as much as short.

"It really was a difficult decision,'' Cash said before Thursday's game against the Twins, which was delayed two hours by rain. "We thought about it, and in fairness to Willy when we called him up … I thought I was going to be able to do a better job of kind of creating a lane. We've got a lot of good infielders here right now playing.''

That they do, with Matt Duffy and Joey Wendle and Daniel Robertson.

But the reason Adames didn't get to play shortstop as planned and as promised is because the Rays have yet to find a trade, or find a trade they deem worthy, for Adeiny Hechavarria. Or have not built up the appetite to eat the remaining $2.5 million or so he's owed.

Yes, Hechavarria is a better player than Adames, thus giving the Rays a better chance to win. But so much else they've done this season — and will do with the expected trades of All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos, starter Nathan Eovaldi, and others coming — makes it clear they are focused on the future.

As they should be.

Reality check: Even having won 14 of 18 to get a season-high four games over .500 at 48-44, the Rays woke up Thursday 16 games out of first in the American League East and 10½ behind the second wild-card-holding Mariners.

In other words, the Rays are not really going anywhere this season. So if the goal is to give Adames the opportunity to learn, and to show them he looks the part, and plays the part, they expect, then he should be here.

But as much as this seems to be on the Rays front office, Adames deserves some of the blame, too.

Having made a three-game cameo in May, he was supposed to be better prepared for the speed and challenges of the game when he came back — in theory to stay — on June 11. Of the 28 games the Rays played since then, he started 22 (and played in another), with 14 games at short, eight at second and six on the bench.

He didn't look particularly good at the plate, hitting .224 with a .606 OPS, making an adjustment on his own that didn't help. And he wasn't overly smooth nor consistent in the field, making three errors and a handful of other misplays. Playing in the big leagues is hard, and sometimes even the anointed ones need some time to figure it out. Some never do.

"It's for sure a tough spot, especially when you're trying to adjust to a new level,'' said first baseman (and now occasional leftfielder, which is another conflicting story) Jake Bauers, who came up with Adames thorough the minors. "Any time you get promoted it's because you're going to play every day when you're a guy like he is. When that got taken away from him, he got uncomfortable. It's just a tough spot to be put in.''

But Bauers and other teammates, such as starter Chris Archer and Robert­son, also said it would be good for Adames to just get to go play, to relax, clear his mind, get his confidence back.

"With Willy, I don't think it will hurt,'' Archer said. "He's pretty level-headed. He knows he just needs to be a little more patient and let things play themselves out.''

Adames' dispatch might not last long, maybe just the minimum 10 days (including the four-day All-Star break), a couple of weeks, at the most until that July 31 trade deadline when the Rays have to — right? — move Hechavarria (with the shortstop market potentially clarified by the Orioles' Manny Machado situation). So maybe this isn't that big of a deal.

"It's going to hurt,'' Bauers said. "It's going to hurt for a few days. I've gone through the same kind of deal coming up through the minors. Everyone in some way has dealt with things like that.

"If I know Willy, he's going to come out the other side stronger, and he's going to come out the other side a better player. I'm confident in that. I'm confident he'll come back and be better than he was.''

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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