Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

New Ray Drew Smyly intends to just be himself

OAKLAND, Calif. — Having been acquired on Thursday in the three-team trade for you-know-who and spending the weekend getting introduced and acclimated (and fitted hurriedly for a tux), Drew Smyly is looking forward to finally taking the mound tonight and show his Rays teammates what he can do.

"I'm anxious to get that first game under my belt," Smyly said Monday. "Hopefully I can make a good impression for all these guys, the team, the coaches. You've just got to go out there and do the best you can."

The one thing he insists he will not try to do?

"I don't look at it as I'm replacing David," Smyly said. "You're not going to replace David Price. He's going to be one of the best on any team he goes to. I'm just here to do the best I can. The Rays made the trade, they wanted me. So I'm going to do the best I can and try to learn from them and get better every game.

"I don't think about it as trying to replace David at all. I'm just doing me. Hopefully I can put some good games together during the season and play well."

Manager Joe Maddon said that's exactly the approach the Rays want Smyly, 25, to take. And they made a point to not immediately overwhelm him with information or suggestions, providing just the basic framework of a game plan.

"I've already talked to him, I just want him to go out there and I want him to be himself," Maddon said. "We want him to keep it simple, we're going to give him a simple game plan to work with and just see if he can go ahead and execute it.

"He's been pitching well. We don't want to get in his way right now, either. We had a good conversation, wide open. It was an easy conversation. He's embracing what we do here already, and he wants to hear more. It's really good stuff."

Smyly's basic repertoire includes a fastball that barely gets into the 90-mph range, a cutter, a curveball (that looks to some like a slider) and a changeup he is still working on.

Maddon said they like the basic tools and feel that Smyly — who was 5-9, 4.21 in 18 starts (and made three relief appearances) — can prosper in their system, but they will remain cautious about forcing any change.

"David's been a Cy Young Award winner, maybe Drew can do that someday, I don't know," Maddon said. "He's been good. He's been really good. We dig into him like everybody else, we have some ideas, we'll see how it plays out."

Rays players have had good first impressions.

"He's a great guy," starter Alex Cobb said. "He seems like he's going to fit in really well with us. You know, just really down to earth, doesn't take himself too seriously. I think that's the No. 1 thing you've got to be able to do in this locker room, is not try to be a super serious, prototypical big-leaguer that you see walking around thinking that they're better than everybody else."

Smyly acknowledges that he's a bit on the shy side, and it will take him a while to loosen up around his new mates.

"These guys have been great," he said. "Every one of them has been great. … They've been way more nice than they need to be."

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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