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Wil Myers tries to put early struggles behind him

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays rightfielder Wil Myers isn't typically short on confidence.

That's why manager Joe Maddon often compares him to Ricky Bobby, Will Ferrell's character in Talladega Nights, saying he … um … oozes excellence.

But Myers, 23, admitted that his bravado took a hit in recent weeks, when he was off to the worst offensive start in his pro career.

"I think any hitter that's going through a slump loses confidence in themselves, and I'm no different by any means," Myers said. "Just one of those things you go through each year."

Myers regained some mojo over the weekend with back-to-back three-hit games, including two homers Saturday, before going 0-for-5 Sunday. There have been a few slight mechanical adjustments, but Myers said it has been mostly mental, as well as having better pitch selection. He's hitting .242 with two homers and 11 RBIs heading into tonight's game against the Twins.

"I'm not there yet," Myers said. "But it's a lot better."

Hitting coach Derek Shelton said it's natural for a young hitter in his first full season in the majors — especially a rising star coming off winning American League rookie of the year — to try to do too much.

That was only exacerbated when Myers saw his batting average dip under .200, with zero homers and four RBIs in his first 14 games.

"You try to press," Myers said. "You try to make it all back in one at-bat."

That led Myers to not only swing at bad pitches but speed up his swing. Manager Joe Maddon noted that Myers wasn't putting the ball in the air, contributing to the skid. Maddon said that happens when you don't stay behind the baseball — with your top hand and bat head — due to moving your feet up to meet the ball instead of letting it come to you.

Sunday, Myers grounded out, grounded into a fielder's choice, reached on an infield error and struck out twice.

"A lot of it is jumping the ball," Maddon said. "You're getting out too quick on the front side. And when you do that, your bat is going to lag behind and you're going to play catch-up at the end and roll it over."

Myers said the slump was difficult mentally and physically. He watched video of himself last year, when he hit .293 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 88 games, to see what it looked like during a strong stretch at the plate.

"It gives you some small things that you can look at to see what's a little different than now," he said.

Shelton believed Myers was putting pressure on himself to hit his first homer, with his solo shot Saturday snapping a stretch of 113 at-bats without one. Now that it's out of the way, Shelton thinks Myers can be more relaxed and get back to an organized strike zone. Myers has 20 strikeouts and seven walks.

"Everyone wants to make hitting about the mechanics and 95 percent of the time, especially at this level, it has nothing to do with the mechanics," Shelton said. "It has nothing to do with how much work you've done. It has to do if you swing at the right pitch in the right count, or not swinging at the right pitch in the right count."

So Shelton thought it was an encouraging sign that Myers picked up three walks during the Yankees series, while not chasing as many bad pitches.

"All of a sudden, there's a little more room to realize, 'Okay, now I can swing at the right pitches, I can do this,' " Shelton said. "I think that was important."

Shelton said one of Myers' greatest attributes is that he's extremely honest, in good times or bad, making it easier for coaches to help make adjustments.

"He can hit," Shelton said. "And he's going to hit. A span of four or five bad games, eight bad games, is never going to be a true reflection of what he is."

Wil Myers tries to put early struggles behind him 04/21/14 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2014 8:11pm]
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