PORT CHARLOTTE — Logan Forsythe considers himself a bit of a handyman.
Whether that means hanging cargo racks in the garage of his Nashville home, or rewiring his 1968 Ford Fairlane, Forsythe prefers teaching himself new tricks.
"It's how you're supposed to do it," he said. "Blue collar — figure it out yourself."
Forsythe, a 27-year-old Memphis native, has taken that approach in becoming a potentially valuable utility man for the Rays, playing all four infield spots plus the corner outfield this spring. The Rays, who acquired Forsythe in January from the Padres in a seven-player trade, are intrigued by not only his defensive versatility but how hard he hits the ball, especially against left-handers.
And manager Joe Maddon believes that Forsythe, limited by foot injuries the past two seasons, is just scratching the surface of what he's capable of.
"I think the more he's able to play consistently, as he gets more comfortable and knows he belongs here, you're going to see a really good player," Maddon said. "But beyond all that, people are going to be surprised with how hard he hits the ball, because it belies how he looks."
Maddon describes how Forsythe, a good athlete but just 6 feet 1, 195 pounds, has an easy approach at the plate, comparing it to former players Wally Joyner, Rafael Palmeiro and "Miracle Met" Cleon Jones.
"If you watch him swing, it's not like this really hard, full-effort swing," Maddon said. "It's kind of rhythmic, almost looks like he flicks the end of the bat."
Forsythe, who hit .286 in the minors with a .416 on-base percentage, hasn't been able to replicate those numbers in the big-leagues (.241, .310 in 228 games), though he has had a .290/.363 split against lefties. Plus, he has been slowed by "freak" injuries.
In 2012, expected to be his first full season with the Padres, Forsythe had to have left foot surgery in spring training, forcing him to miss two months. Last spring, he had plantar fasciitis, and it ruptured three weeks into camp, leading him to play just 75 games.
"It's miserable," Forsythe said. "You can probably walk on nails, you can't walk on this."
But Monday will be special as it will be Forsythe's first opening day on an active roster.
"I haven't had a complete full season in a while, so that to me would be an accomplishment in itself, get out of spring training healthy," Forsythe said. "That is a big goal of mine to start the year. The last couple years, I've had some freak injuries, that you work your butt off all offseason, and the first week, you're out. That's been really disheartening, but this spring, so far, so good."
Maddon said Forsythe, a right-handed hitter, would get most of his starts in the infield at second or third base, likely against lefties, while also being able to pop in as DH . But Maddon is also comfortable with Forsythe in leftfield and said he fits their culture. Maddon, a classic car enthusiast himself, says he has especially enjoyed talking with Forsythe about his 1968 Fairlane.
Forsythe, whose father loved muscle cars, said he spotted it on a lot in 2011 in Fayetteville, Ark., where he had played in college for the Razorbacks and met his fiance, Ally, a soccer player. Most of the car's major components have been redone, like the 302 5.0L engine, but it still has the original steering wheel and seat belts, and it has just 1,000 miles on it.
"It's a cool car, you don't see it often anymore," Forsythe said. "It's like a snot green, but in the sun, it's pretty."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TBTimes_JSmith.