Rays call up top prospect Myers

Outfielder Wil Myers, center, had been on a tear at Triple-A Durham when he was called up to the majors for the first time.
Outfielder Wil Myers, center, had been on a tear at Triple-A Durham when he was called up to the majors for the first time.
Published June 17, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have always said that when they believed prized prospect Wil Myers was ready for the big leagues, they'd make a spot for him on their roster.

On Sunday, they felt the time was right.

After much deliberation and weeks of speculation, the Rays made the much-anticipated move of calling up Myers from Triple-A Durham, with the 22-year-old expected to play regularly, mostly in rightfield, while providing some pop from lower in the lineup.

"He's going to play a lot," manager Joe Maddon said. "Of course you don't bring somebody like that up to sit around."

As much hype as Myers has already garnered since being the key piece of the seven-player offseason trade that sent James Shields to the Royals, he'll be stepping onto a big stage, making his major-league debut Tuesday during a doubleheader at Fenway Park to begin a seven-game trip through Boston and New York.

Myers was pulled from Sunday's game at Durham in the third inning and said he was surprised by the news. Infielder Ryan Roberts was optioned to make room.

"Obviously, I'm very excited," Myers told reporters in Durham. "I didn't know what to expect. But the opportunity arose and luckily they gave me the call."

Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said they've debated the decision for a while, and Myers' recent hot stretch — .354 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs over his past 23 games — "certainly accelerated the conversations." Friedman said a major factor was the adjustments Myers has made since a rough stretch earlier this season — better organizing his strike zone, improving his approach against right-handers and handling "getting pitched backward."

"Even when I was struggling, I was having good at-bats," said Myers, hitting .283 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs in 63 games. "It was just one of those things where I was missing my pitch. I was really dialed in the last few weeks."

But Friedman said what impressed him the most while watching Myers during a five-game stretch last month was how well he played defensively.

"We try to grow a complete ballplayer around here," Maddon said. "And I think that's what he's turning out to be."

Maddon said that though there will naturally be some large outside expectations for Myers, the Rays will do their best to ease the pressure by hitting him lower in the order and asking him to just be "one of nine." Friedman said the fact that Myers bounced back from early struggles will help him mentally and pointed out that he won't have to worry about carrying an offense that has already been productive.

"To be able to add him into that and just be a piece of the puzzle here is something that's critical," Friedman said. "I don't know that we would've done this if we were struggling. It's hard to answer. But we felt like now was the right time."

Maddon said he hadn't thought out how adding Myers will impact the Rays' defensive alignment. It would appear Matt Joyce will play leftfield, especially against right-handed starters, and Ben Zobrist will get more starts at second base. Left-handed hitting Kelly Johnson is in the mix at both positions and showed this past series he could back up Evan Longoria at third. That versatility allowed the Rays to send down Roberts, though Friedman acknowledged it "wasn't an easy decision."

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Maddon doesn't believe it'll be any more difficult for Myers to make his debut in Fenway, where he remembers hitting a few homers over the Green Monster in a predraft workout. Friedman said Myers just "gives us the best chance to win."

"He's going to fit right in," Friedman said.

Information from the Durham Herald-Sun contributed to this report.