Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Myers impresses in first workout

PORT CHARLOTTE — Every indication the Rays have given since acquiring Wil Myers in a trade from Kansas City is the highly touted outfield prospect will open the season in the minors.

And every indication Myers gave once he stepped onto the field Thursday for his first spring workout is he's going to at least make it a subject of spirited conversation, if not actual debate, throughout the spring.

Sure, it was just an informal batting practice session in shorts, on a side field, with minor-league coach Skeeter Barnes throwing.

But it sure was something.

"It's impressive," hitting coach Derek Shelton said. "And I think the thing that's the most impressive is the bat speed … and the way the ball comes off his bat. You can see it not only when he's hitting on the field, but even off a tee. You don't see very many people that generate that much bat speed. First day, it's exciting to see."

Also, apparently, to hear.

"It's a different sound," Shelton said. "It's loud. You don't hear many guys that can create that sound, and he's definitely creating it."

Shelton watched from behind the cage, where a half-dozen top Rays officials just happened to flock from different sides of the training complex as the 6-foot-3, 190-pound 22-year-old — so excited he didn't sleep much Wednesday — grabbed his 34-inch MaxBat and showed off.

"I had some nerves when I first stepped in," Myers said. "But I think it went well."

Utilityman Sean Rodriguez had a similar take from centerfield, where he watched a half-dozen balls sail — some quite far — over the fences.

"It was coming out hot," Rodriguez said. "I didn't know he was that big. He was hitting the ball firm. How old is he again? He's hitting the ball like a grown man."

Officially, the Rays say they won't make any decision until they get better acquainted with Myers; not only the skills he shows on the field, but how he handles himself.

"For me, a lot of it has to do with watching him and how he reacts to everything; his comportment during the course of a day on the major-league level," manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm so much into that: how he interacts with the players, our conversations, how mature, where the conversations are at, what's he thinking, does it seem like he's able to handle this right now."

There could be significant long-term financial benefits for the Rays in delaying Myers' debut a few weeks into the season (postponing free agency until after his seventh season) or two to three months (keeping him from "Super 2" status for a potentially expensive fourth year of arbitration eligibility).

Maddon insists it also could be better for Myers, a 2009 draft pick with only 3½ months of experience at Triple A.

"For me, this is a baseball decision. I don't make those other decisions. I want to believe that we always make the decision based on what's right for the team at that moment," he said. "I just think it's easier for a young player with that kind of expectation level to get some time under his belt on the minor-league level.

"Get it rolling, get the feel going and you know he's going well. Then walking into a big-league situation is not as difficult, I don't think, as opposed to leaving a camp with all these expectations and this hype and having to match up to that on the major-league level right out of the chute."

Myers — the consensus 2012 minor-league player of the year after hitting .314 with 37 home runs, 109 RBIs and a .987 on-base plus slugging percentage between Double A and Triple A — has his own opinion, of course.

"As a player, I feel like I'm major-league ready," he said, "but that's not up to me to decide. It's up to the front office."

And he'll do everything he can over the next six weeks to make it a tougher decision.

"I try not to think about it too much. Obviously, it's on my mind a little bit," Myers said. "I just want to go out and get better every day, and just work on my game."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

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