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Tampa Bay Rays excited to get look at top shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee

PORT CHARLOTTE — Realistically, SS Hak-Ju Lee knows he needs more experience in the minor leagues. But when the question was asked Saturday about the majors, the promising 21-year-old prospect couldn't resist.

"I'm ready now," he said.

The talented South Korean is a nonroster invitee to camp, and manager Joe Maddon and other Rays are excited to get their first look at him.

"Very eager to see him, absolutely," Maddon said. "You hear the same thing from everybody, it's pretty consistent: He's the full package. It's not just that he does this or that well — great defense, fine arm, moves the ball (with his bat), very fast on the bases. So it's going to be exciting to watch this."

Lee, acquired from the Cubs in the January 2010 Matt Garza trade, showed plenty last season at Class A Charlotte, winning team MVP and Florida State League All-Star honors, hitting .318 with 17 doubles, 11 triples, 28 steals and a .389 on-base percentage in 97 games to go along with flashy defense.

Still tired from the 16-hour flight, Lee said he was "really excited" to be in his first big-league camp.

"I'm just ready, always ready," he said. "Work hard, play hard, that's it."

With Lee likely headed to Double-A Montgomery, where he struggled a bit at the end of last season (.190 average, .272 on-base), and Tim Beckham at Triple A, Maddon said the Rays feel they have considerable depth at shortstop. Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez are competing for the big-league job.

ALL TOGETHER NOW: Maddon will address the players prior to today's first full-squad workout, but having chatted with many individually last week, he doesn't feel the need to make much of a motivational speech.

"It's a very self-motivated group," he said. "Of course I'm going to say something, but I really don't think they need me to say anything. They're on a good path right now, and I think it's our job as a staff just to keep them focused and keep them there. I don't want to get too smart or too busy with them because their minds are in a good place right now. It's more about adding little things here and there that keep pointing them in the right direction."

MISCELLANY: The hitters will be welcomed today by having to step in for "live" batting practice against pitchers who have thrown regularly, which is always entertaining. … With Lee and OF Brad Coon reporting, 1B Juan Miranda was the only one of the 59 players not to show up early. … Maddon said there have been no injuries reported in the first week of drills.

Tampa Bay Rays excited to get look at top shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee 02/25/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 25, 2012 8:32pm]
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