Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays impressed with Souza's growth so far

ST. PETERSBURG — Even before he made like Superman with a spectacular diving catch in Wednesday's game against the Orioles, OF Steven Souza Jr. had given the Rays plenty to be excited about in the first month of his second season.

Through 21 games, he leads the team with 11 RBIs and five homers (matched by Corey Dickerson), has a .338 on-base percentage to go with a .277 average and has looked more comfortable and a bit calmer in rightfield.

The Rays, who acquired Souza in December 2014 to essentially replace Wil Myers, like what he has been doing and how he has been doing it.

"It's nice to see that he's playing with a lot of confidence right now," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's swinging the bat with confidence, he's playing defense with confidence, and (Monday) night he ran the bases with confidence to score the big run that got us on the board. So he's doing a lot of good things for us."

LHP Matt Moore said he also has noticed Souza's growth over last year.

"You can definitely see the confidence in each step he's taken as opposed to maybe last year when he was getting his feet wet here," Moore said.

"He's walking around like a lot more confident of a person and that's something that's going to be huge for us this season."

LEADING MAN: After a slow start 2B Logan Forsythe has apparently warmed up to the leadoff role, ranking among the AL leaders with a .307 average, seven doubles and a .935 on-base plug slugging percentage.

"He's been outstanding," Cash said. "Maybe I haven't talked enough about him. We asked a guy who had a really good year to change up and go into that leadoff spot. Part of the reason why is we thought No. 1 it would get him more at-bats, but it was going to make us a better lineup. … He bought in, which kind of shows what he's about, and the teammate he is. Then he goes and he just continues to knock the cover off the ball."

PITCHING IN: LHP Drew Smyly starts tonight with what he makes sound like such a simple key to his success: "Baseball is a crazy game. Anything can happen. I don't look too far into it. I just go out, try to compete. Throw strikes, that's my key of emphasis every week. Just try to … make them chase bad pitches."

GOOD DEEDS: Souza today will host 50 kids and "Bigs" from the Big Brothers/Big Sister Program attending the game through the Major League Baseball Players Trust Buses for Baseball program. … 3B Evan Longoria, LHP Drew Smyly, INF Tim Beckham, LHP Dana Eveland and Souza on Saturday morning will attend a Miracle League of the Gulf Beaches game at St. Petersburg's Azalea Little League, providing tips and encouragement, then sign autographs and take questions, as part of the Trust's City Clinics program.

MISCELLANY: LF Desmond Jennings is hitless in his past 16 at-bats and 1-for-his-last-20 and 3-for-his-last-33 with 12 strikeouts. …Through Wednesday, the Rays ranked last in the American League with 72 runs, though their .234 average with runners in scoring position was ninth. … And in an odd stat: With runners on second and third (but not bases loaded), the Rays are 0-for-10 with two walks. … Having already played 13 home games, the Rays rank last in the majors with an average attendance of 16,091. … A Todd Kalas-hosted Inside the Rays show on the team's spring trip to Cuba debuts at 5 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports Sun.

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