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Injuries behind, Brandon Guyer eyes Rays' roster spot

PORT CHARLOTTE — For Rays outfielder Brandon Guyer, this winter was wedding season.

Guyer, 28, and his wife, Lindsay, attended four, including one near his home in Maryland and another in Virginia, where he went to college. For another ceremony in Sarasota, the couple planned to extend the trip a few days into a beach vacation.

"But when we got down here it was like 40 degrees," Guyer said. "I thought I was getting out of the cold weather. But what can you do?"

Guyer isn't one to let things that are out of his control get him down. That includes a couple of seasons in which injuries likely cost him a big-league callup.

But Guyer, who is out of minor-league options, has the inside track in making his first opening day roster as a reserve outfielder. And he believes the time might finally be right.

"I'm excited," he said. "I feel like I have a great chance to make the team. I feel like I've played pretty good in Triple A. We'll see what happens. But I'm looking forward to competing and having a good time."

Guyer, acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade, got a taste of the big leagues in 18 combined games for the Rays in 2011 and 2012. Triple-A Durham manager Charlie Montoyo said Guyer has earned the opportunity to return to the majors, having done it all with the Bulls.

Montoyo said Guyer is an above-average outfielder with the ability to play all three positions. Guyer is a solid baserunner, successful on 22 of 25 stolen base attempts last season. And Guyer, who led the Bulls by hitting .301 last season, is strong against left-handed pitching, batting .311 in 254 plate appearances in Triple A.

"The under-the-hood numbers with him are outstanding regarding his offensive abilities, his defense and his baserunning," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's just about him staying well. He's a real eager fellow, you can't work any harder; it's impossible. So it's about good health. If he can bring his Triple-A mind to the big leagues, he's going to play well here, it's that simple."

Guyer said he feels "amazing." His left shoulder, surgically repaired in 2012, is stronger and more flexible, giving him better power potential. And the right middle finger he broke in July is not an issue.

That bad break, coming on a bunt attempt, was a double whammy because of its timing. It came just one week before Desmond Jennings broke his finger. With Jennings on the disabled list, the Rays needed an outfielder, but Guyer was out until Aug. 23.

"Maybe it wasn't my time?" Guyer said. "Maybe it wasn't meant for me to go up there. As hard as it was, that's the way I look at it. Because if I look at it other ways, it can be so frustrating."

Guyer believes that with his improved health he can put up the kind of numbers he had at Durham in 2011, when he hit. 312 with 14 homers, 61 RBIs and 16 steals in 107 games. "I had power, had speed, good defense, a good arm," he said. "I bring that all to the table for sure."

Guyer still has to prove it in spring workouts, competing with others, including outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who made his big-league debut in the Game 163 tiebreaker in Texas and the AL wild-card game in Cleveland. The Rays also could decide to keep a veteran infielder, such as Wilson Betemit or Jayson Nix, and use Sean Rodriguez as the fifth outfielder.

But Montoyo said he's pulling for Guyer to get his shot.

"He's one of those guys who's had some bad luck," Montoyo said. "But when he's healthy, he's a very good player. I think he's ready to take it to the big leagues."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter @TBTimes_JSmith.

Injuries behind, Brandon Guyer eyes Rays' roster spot 02/21/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 21, 2014 10:08pm]
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