ST. PETERSBURG — You have to walk before you can crawl, and he did that three times Thursday afternoon, a career-high three bases on balls. But, again, there were no hits. That’s 20 consecutive at-bats without one for Wil Myers. “I feel better,” Myers said. “Today was probably my best day in a week. I felt my hands working better today. Even though I had the strikeout, I took some good swings at balls. So, really, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.” But it’s still a tunnel — the first major struggles of what should be Myers’ major career. It now coincides with a serious Rays slump, four losses in five games after a limp 2-0 defeat to the Angels at Tropicana Field, the last thing this club needed as it embarked on a 10-game left-coast swing, with the first-place Red Sox in when the Rays return home.
Right now, the Thrill is gone. It’s not about Myers’ smashing major-league splash, all those hits, homers and RBIs in just 59 games, the tousle-haired wonder who, if he didn’t lift the Rays up single-handed, at least did it barehanded. Right now, he’s coming to grips with failure. There’s a little less AL Rookie of the Year chatter about him. This is a slump, and September is coming, Myers’ first September in the majors. “It’s been real tough,” Myers said. “Not being able to contribute to the team has been the biggest part. When I struggled before, I felt like I was running the bases well ... playing good defense. I haven’t really been on base, so I can’t do anything.” In his past 12 games, Myers is 5-for-43 (.116) with no extra-base hits and 16 strikeouts. Since Aug. 10, he is batting .145. Myers is still at .286 overall, but he has been flailing of late, looking bad, looking lost. Pitchers are catching up to him. It isn’t easy, as if it ever was. It’s time we remember Myers has played just those 59 games in the majors, or that he doesn’t turn 23 until December. It’s time we remember that not everyone is the Angels’ Mike Trout (even Trout had 40 games in the majors before his astounding 2012 and now astounding 2013). Myers isn’t alone. Evan Longoria, after showing signs of life, is now 0-for-15 in his past four games. Desmond Jennings just snapped an 0-for-18 streak and is just 3-for-29 since coming off the disabled list. James Loney is hitting just .230, with no extra-base hits ... in August. But Wil Myers is heading into September, his first in the majors. “I think that first slump in the major leagues is probably the hardest,” Rays outfielder Matt Joyce said. “You’ve had a little success, and then you hit a bump and it kind of brings you back to earth. I told him (Wednesday), ‘I can’t wait to see you in September,’ because I’ve just got a feeling he’s going to do some things that are going to wow some people.” “He’s going to come out of it,” Longoria said. “I don’t doubt that he has the confidence to do it.” I don’t see a crisis of confidence, either, because Myers oozes confidence. It’s there even now. “Yeah, honestly, all of us are one pitch away from turning the corner,” Myers said. “You know, you go through those in baseball, it’s just one of those things. One pitch away, like I said, from really getting going again.” I’d still take him over even Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig, a shooting star who keeps getting in his own way, as he was yanked from a game Wednesday for nonchalance. That’s not Myers. But this is new territory. It’s not about accolades at the moment, or his major-league debut at Fenway Park, or his first homer, no less than a grand slam at Yankee Stadium off CC Sabathia. It’s not about Myers’ first Trop at-bat — another homer. It’s about Wonder Boy fighting it a little. “I did like the walks,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Myers’ Thursday. “When you’re walking, you’re hitting. Normally the first sign before somebody starts getting back to normal.” We have no idea how the Rays will emerge from this western swing. The last one was written in blood. We have no idea how Myers will come out on the other side, either. “I can kind of guess what it’s going to be like, going down the stretch in a pennant race, you got to leave it all on the line,” Myers said. “I’m excited about it, to be honest. I’m ready to get going.” Away we go.