Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Myers preparing to head to minors

SARASOTA — Sometime in the next couple of days, maybe even this morning, Wil Myers will be summoned from the Rays' Port Charlotte clubhouse to the conference room across from manager Joe Maddon's office and told he is headed to Durham, N.C., to open the season.

Despite all the hype, chatter and unsolicited advice from the "experts" who say there's no way the Rays can't start Myers in the majors, the future officially will be on hold.

And Myers won't be surprised.

Or upset.

"I think it's been pretty obvious from what I've read that I am going to Triple A, which is really no big deal," Myers said Thursday morning.

"I'm looking forward to going to Triple A. It's pretty close to my house (in Thomasville, N.C.), and I'll be able to see all my family there.

"But ultimately I want to be in the big leagues, and that's what I'm working toward. So I'm looking forward to going to Triple A and proving what I can do."

Myers, the 22-year-old prized outfield prospect acquired in the trade that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City, was most likely headed to the minors no matter what he did this spring.

And he didn't really do anything to change any minds, hitting .300 (9-for-30) with one RBI in 15 games, including doubling in the ninth and scoring the winning run in Thursday's 4-3 victory over Baltimore.

"I haven't done too much on the field," Myers acknowledged. "I've never been a spring training all-star any year. Usually my last week of spring training is when I really start turning it on. I'm feeling good at the plate. I'm having good at-bats, and I'm looking forward to the season."

Maddon, however, said he has been impressed with what he has seen, specifically the speed, athleticism and overall game Myers has shown.

"Better than advertised, how about that?" Maddon said.

"I think he's done well. Offensively you can see the prodigious ability, it's absolutely there. I didn't know he ran this well. I didn't know he moves as well as he does; he moves better than I had been led to believe. Defensively, because he moves so well, he's going to be really fine out there.

"He's more of a complete player than I thought because everyone has talked about hitting, hitting, hitting. So I was expecting like a big guy who hit a lot that really didn't move that well. Even though he played the outfield, he had been a catcher. So all these things sent confusing signals. To see him on the field, he's very athletic and should be a solid five-tool player. He should be able to play all areas of the game above average, and some well-above average."

As soon as the Rays make it official that Myers is headed to the minors, the speculation will begin on when he gets called up to the majors.

Myers, who hit .304 with 24 homers and 79 RBIs in 99 games for the Royals' Triple-A team last year, said he's not going to be marking days off the calendar.

"That's not me," he said. "I just go out and play my game and try to get better every day. Whenever the front office thinks it's time, then that's when it happens."

There are potentially significant financial benefits for the Rays to take their time: a few weeks postpone potential free agency until after Myers' seventh season, a couple of months or so keep him from "Super 2" status for a potentially expensive fourth year of arbitration eligibility. (To this point, the Rays haven't approached Myers with a long-term contract offer that would alleviate such concerns.)

The decision will come from above, but Maddon said he sincerely believes it will be based more on merit than money.

"He's the kind of guy you look to get hot, and when he's hot, he's ready," Maddon said. "Because he's mentally ready to do this, I think, or very close to it, based on the fact that he believes he belongs here. I don't think there's any question about that, which is outstanding.

"Wally Joyner felt the same thing prior to getting there (with the Angels), as an example. David Price felt the same thing, as an example. Longo (Evan Longoria) felt the same thing, as an example.

"Guys like that, you don't want to be wrong. I think it's always better to be a little bit on the other side. I know immediately the natural reaction is to point to finances. I could really care less about that, and I know the organization, I think, we feel the same way. You don't want to mess that up. So the timing has to be right. It's like a nice souffle. You just can't screw it up. Timing is everything."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

 
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