TORONTO — Improved pitching has obviously been the biggest key to the Rays' improved play. But the presence of rookie OF Wil Myers isn't a bad second.
Since Myers was promoted June 18, the Rays have gone 21-8, and he has certainly had a hand in their success. In his 28 games, Myers has hit .310, blasted four homers and driven in 18 runs, most of any rookie over that span.
Saturday, hitting cleanup for the first time, Myers knocked in runs his first two times up in the 4-3 win over the Blue Jays.
"It was definitely cool, I enjoy hitting (cleanup), I hit there a lot in (Triple-A) Durham," Myers said. "It's just wherever Joe hits me, and luckily I was able to come up in some big spots and come through for us."
Manager Joe Maddon said he has no concerns using Myers, 22, in any role, given that he seems impervious. Plus, he'd done well.
"He's obviously contributed," Maddon said. "He lengthens the lineup, he provides protection, he makes the other side think differently, no question about it."
UNBALANCED: Team president Matt Silverman pointed out the ineffectiveness of MLB's competitive balance lottery which is designed to award extra draft picks to the lowest-revenue and smallest-market teams. The Rays were shut out in the inaugural process and landed a post-second round pick for 2014, behind teams such as the Orioles and Cardinals, which wouldn't seem to fit either criteria for help.
"The competitive balance lottery is a lot more lottery and a lot less competitive balance," Silverman said. "Perhaps one day these picks will make strides against the imbalance in our game. For now it is about competitive balance in name only."
ESCOBAR UPDATE: SS Yunel Escobar said his tight right hamstring felt better after a pregame workout with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield, but Maddon said the Rays likely will wait until Monday to put him back in the lineup.
"He's still sore to the point where I don't want to push it yet," Maddon said. "I don't think it's necessary. Let's just be a little bit more patient."
SICK BAY: RHP Jeremy Hellickson threw up Friday night and felt light-headed in his five innings Saturday, one of a half-dozen players, most noticeably DH Luke Scott, with some symptoms of illness. "I think it's going around," Hellickson said.
PAPA IN THE HOUSE: New dad 1B James Loney is scheduled to rejoin the team for today's game, missing the past two after the Thursday night birth of his son. INF Ryan Roberts, called up under the paternity leave provision, is expected to be sent back to Durham.
MISCELLANY: RHP Fernando Rodney converted his 14th consecutive save, 23rd overall and 71st in 1½ seasons with the Rays, tying Danys Baez for second on the franchise all-time list. Roberto Hernandez leads with 101. … The Rays bunted three times, twice for hits (Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings). … First-pitch temperature was announced at 75, but Maddon said it was the hottest he'd ever been on the field in Toronto. … RHP Brandon Gomes, out since early May with a lat strain, pitched a scoreless inning for Class A Charlotte. … 3B Evan Longoria's Friday homer was estimated at 442 feet by hittrackeronline.com, making it his second longest of the season (448 feet vs. Padres May 11).