PORT CHARLOTTE — Now that the Rays have made it official in sending top prospect Wil Myers to the minors, the question is when he will get to the majors.
Manager Joe Maddon said the outfielder, the centerpiece of the James Shields trade with Kansas City, impressed him as more of a complete player than expected and could be ready soon.
"Probably for a guy like that, if he just were to get hot and there was a need," Maddon said Saturday after a 9-2 loss to Boston. "The rest of his game, I think, has to get better, but the bat is the thing you're always going to look at first with him, so if the bat is hot, you would work him into it somehow. There are some things also offensively that we saw that we'd like him to be aware of and get better with, and I think he will. … I just don't think he's far off."
Myers, 22, had been expecting the news and said he was "actually kind of excited" about getting regular work in minor-league camp and getting ready for the Triple-A Durham season.
"It was something that I knew was going to come eventually, and it wasn't a surprise at all," he said. "It was a blast here, but now I'm ready to get down to business."
There has been speculation the Rays will keep Myers in the minors for several months to keep him from gaining enough service time to qualify for an extra year of arbitration eligibility. Maddon has said he believes the front office will treat it as a baseball decision. Myers, who hit .286 (10-for-35) in 17 games with one RBI, said he believes he is ready and would like to think it will be a baseball decision.
"I hope it's 'baseball ready,' " he said. "That would be nice. But I know there is a business aspect of it, and I'll leave it up to the front office to make that decision."
SANDOVAL, LUEKE ALSO sent down: Two relievers making strong pitches for jobs, right-handers Josh Lueke and Juan Sandoval, were among five others sent down as the Rays reduced their roster to 39. Lueke and OF Brandon Guyer were optioned to Triple A; Sandoval and RHPs Will Inman and J.D. Martin were reassigned to minor-league camp.
Sandoval, blind in one eye, has struggled after a strong start, but Maddon said he could definitely be of help during the season. "I like the arm a lot. I like the breaking stuff. I like the ball on the ground a lot. Character, makeup are spectacular," Maddon said.
Maddon lauded Lueke, who allowed only one run in nine spring innings, for improvements in his pitches and maturity. The Lueke decision bodes well for RHP Brandon Gomes' chance of getting the final spot in the bullpen. Maddon said that has not been decided.
HOT ALFREDO MESS: INF Sean Rodriguez had to be restrained by 1B coach Dave Myers after Red Sox RHP Alfredo Aceves hit him with a pitch and then kept barking at him when he got to first base. Several Rays also came out of the dugout to help if needed.
"I was ready to go because there was some stuff he said that I'll leave unsaid," said Rodriguez, who had doubled and homered (his team-high-matching third) off Aceves.
Aceves, a hothead, said it was not intentional, pointing out he threw a splitter, not a fastball, and it was 3-2 in the fifth at the time.
Both managers said they took Aceves at his word. Boston's John Farrell said he planned to take Aceves out after Rodriguez's at-bat anyway and, "I can tell you this: We don't intentionally look to hit any hitters in any situation."
GAME DETAILS: RHP Roberto Hernandez overcame a shaky first inning to work five, strengthening his bid for a rotation spot. "I really liked the way Roberto pitched," Maddon said. … OF/1B Leslie Anderson had three hits, upping his spring average to .425; C Craig Albernaz got his first plate appearance, flying out to end the game. … The Rays dropped to 13-8.
MISCELLANY: INF/OF Ben Zobrist was expected back in camp today after playing sparingly for the United States in the World Baseball Classic. Maddon expects to play him heavily over the remaining two weeks. … OF Sam Fuld (right hamstring tightness) continues to make progress, with a late-week return expected.