How this dynamic duo can lead the Rays

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames (1), left, and Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Jake Bauers (9) share a moment while warming up just prior to the Rays game against the Toronto Blue Jays Monday, June 11, 2018 in St. Petersburg. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames (1), left, and Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Jake Bauers (9) share a moment while warming up just prior to the Rays game against the Toronto Blue Jays Monday, June 11, 2018 in St. Petersburg. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Aug. 6, 2018|Updated Aug. 7, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — They're going to have their successes, as Willy Adames and Jake Bauers have flashed at times during their first two months in the majors. They're going to have their struggles, as the unforgiving numbers and incessant scrutiny at this level have also revealed.

Maybe most important of all, they're going to have each other.

The featured leads in the Rays' youth movement are an unlikely pair that evolved into a dynamic duo, not only playing well with each other but playing off each other to develop a bond that can transcend a clubhouse and transform a team.

"They push one another, they enjoy watching each other's success and they genuinely root for one another," said Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder, who was with them last year at Triple-A Durham for the championship run.

"Really seeing some of what they brought together, their relationship, how that relationship led most of last year, it's pretty powerful. In terms of the chemistry of the team and the success the team had, I think it had a lot to do with the bond that the two had, how they pushed one another and how that led the rest of the group."

They first met as teenagers in 2014, competing on different teams in the Class A Midwest League, Adames still learning his way since coming over from the Dominican Republic, Bauers sporting some southern California cool.

The next year they started playing together, growing together — and winning together — in the Rays organization in Port Charlotte, both acquired as supposedly promising young prospects in big trades (Adames in the David Price deal, Bauers part of the Wil Myers swap).

Something clicked, and stuck with them as they shared shabby locker rooms, long bus rides and big-league dreams.

"It's about energy," Bauers explained. "One of us does something cool, it gets the other one fired up. When you're fired up, having a good time, having fun, enjoying yourself, that's when good things are going to happen. It's really that kind of back and forth where you just feed off each other's energy. … That's been going on for years now."

They also know each other's game well enough to help, directly and indirectly.

"The thing that's fun to watch is the way they support each other and know each other's strengths," Rays hitting coach Chad Mottola said. "I actually use them both as a sounding board to hear what they see in each other. They've been together for many years they sense when the other one needs something. Willy hasn't been performing like he's wanted to … and I've asked Jake several times, 'What do you see? What've you got for me?' It's helpful to me."

Baseball has seen these buddy acts before, guys who came up together, transitioned together and become big-league regulars, and stars, together.
Think of Detroit's Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. Kansas City's George Brett and Frank White. Boston's Fred Lynn and Jim Rice. Minnesota's Gary Gaetti and Kent Hrbek.

That kind of dynamic duo can have a big impact.

"A lot," manager Kevin Cash said. "At the end of the day, they've got to play well, and they are going to play well. That has been their track record coming up. Every minor-league manager they've ever had, every hitting coach, every coordinator, has complimented these guys.

"They're different. They're different personalities. Willy is the kind that you can't knock the smile off his face. He's high energy. Talks to everybody. Jake's the guy who brings (the attitude) to the ballpark, 'I'm gonna beat this guy, I'm gonna beat you, I'm gonna beat this team.' They do complement each other. They motivate and they push each other. And they appear to be extremely close."

Pitcher Ryan Yarbrough noticed that playing against them at Double-A in 2016, then joining up with them in Durham last year. "You can just tell the bond they have," he said. "If one of them hits a home run, they're the first one up to greet them. … If one of them is having a bad day, the other one's picking him up. And when you get them both going on the same day it's something special."

Bauers, 22, has done better of the two so far, hitting .235 with nine homers, 16 doubles, 28 RBIs and an .838 OPS in 52 games since his June 7 call-up, playing pretty much every day, splitting time between first base (where he belongs) and leftfield (where he can fill in well).

Adames, 22, has been more inconsistent in part because he wasn't getting consistent playing time (and was sent back down for 10 days), hitting .209 with four homers, 13 RBIs and a .580 OPS, plus nine errors, in his 39 games, bouncing between second (which he can play) and shortstop (where he wants, and the Rays hope, he can play). The Rays finally ditching veteran Adeiny Hechavarria — who was designated for assignment last week and traded Monday to Pittsburgh — should free Willy to relax knowing he'll be playing short every day.

They've got the talent, the skill, the personalities and, now, the big-league opportunity.

All they're missing? A catchy nickname.

"You got me thinking about that now," Adames said. "We've got to figure that out."

Suggestions are welcome. But the guess here is they'll come up with something together.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.