Mahtook surprised by trade, excited by chance to be Tigers CF
OF Mikie Mahtook has been working out in preparation for another spring training with the Rays in Port Charlotte, already set to share a rental home with Brad Miller and Curt Casali, when he got the surprising news Wednesday that he'd been traded to the Tigers.
"Weird is probably a good way to describe it,'' Mahtook said Thursday from Detroit. "I Was not expecting it. Obviously I had no idea it was coming. I wasn't anticipating anything. I was just going about my off-season like I normally do, getting ready for spring training. Then I got the phone call. And then it got really weird.''
As much as being traded can create logistical issues, it can also present opportunity.
For Mahtook, that means going from battling with newly acquired Mallex Smith for a spot as a reserve with the Rays to the chance to compete for Detroit's starting centerfield job.
"I don't know the details of what (the Rays') thought process was,'' Mahtook said. "I wasn't expecting anything, but it happened. And I'm going to enjoy my new opportunity and take advantage of it. They told me they want me to come out here and and compete for the centerfield job. It's an open competition. They had a bunch of good things to say about me. I'm just going to approach it like I approach everything and work my butt off and go out there and win my spot.''
Mahtook said he is thankful for the opportunity he got from the Rays. He was their second first-round pick in the 2011 draft, and played parts of the 2015-16 seasons in the majors.
"I feel like they gave me the opportunity to fulfill a dream that I've always wanted to. I've always wanted to play in the big leagues, I've always wanted to be a professional baseball player,'' he said. "They drafted me out of LSU and they gave me that opportunity. I'll be forever grateful for that.''
Though Mahtook struggled through an injury-marred 2016 season, he said he leaves Tampa Bay with no regrets, and no complaints.
"There's obviously some things I wish I would have done a little bit better, but I also had some good moments while I was there,'' he said. "In 2014 I was our Triple-A player of the year, I played extremely well that year. In 2015 I was up and down a lot and ended the season really strong in September. Then I went into camp last year and had a really good spring training and was, I guess, the odd man out. And then injuries happened. I hurt my oblique and then I broke my hand. So it was a lot of play for two weeks, out for a month; play for two-three weeks, out for seven.
"So I'm not making any excuses or anything, but that was just the reality of last season. Obviously looking back on it I wish when I was healthy I would've played a little bit better, but that was the way it was last year. And I'm going to be a better player for it.''
And now, unexpectedly, he will get the chance to show that in Detroit.
"I do think there is a lot more left in the tank in terms of ability and seeing what I can actually do,'' he said. "So that's my goal, to go out there and show it and prove it and be a huge asset for Detroit.''