Tampa Bay Rays
Future is now as Myers makes Rays debut
Waiting for Wil Myers in the Durham Bulls dugout during the middle of the second inning Sunday was Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo, who delivered this message to the young prospect: “You're out of the game. You may or may not be going to the big leagues.”
May or may not?
The kid has been knocking on the door since last season and he's told it's 50-50 he could be joining the Rays.
Turns out, as everyone knows by now, Myers did receive the big news Sunday, Father's Day, while his parents, Pam and Eric, were among his family and friends in the stands.
Myers realized his dream had come true about two minutes later when Bulls trainer Mike Sandoval handed him his travel itinerary for Boston.
He begins his promising big-league career this afternoon when the Rays play the first of two games of a day-night doubleheader against the first-place Red Sox.
“It was really cool. This is something I've worked for all my life, and it's finally coming true,” Myers said Monday during a conference call.
He said he was standing at a taxi stand at Logan International Airport. His flight was delayed en route to Boston by thunderstorms that pounded the city.
“It was pretty bumpy,” he said.
Rays fans everywhere rejoiced at the news that the 2012 minor-league player of the year with a bat worthy of jump-starting a suddenly sluggish offense has finally arrived.
“I saw some things on Twitter which I thought was awesome to be able to know the fans are behind you,” Myers said.
Expectations are running high for the 22-year-old right fielder, acquired from the Royals in December as part of a blockbuster trade that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City. He hit .283 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs in 63 games for the Bulls — .354 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs during his final 23 games.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he will help temper those expectations by batting Myers seventh in the lineup and ensuring the kid knows he's not expected to be the savior.
As for the fan base, Maddon had this to say Saturday: “I understand the fans' perspective, what they think. It's so different when a guy gets up here and he's young and he's trying to find his way through. There's this disconnect, I think, what the average fan believes how it plays here and how it really plays here, and the developmental process because you don't want to injure (the player's) confidence, although they are going to struggle at some point.
“Bring him up when you think he's ready and be prepared to work with him through the struggle.”
When asked about the expectations, Myers said, “The game changes when you get to the big leagues. It's all about winning. I put that aside and just do whatever I can to help the team win.”
Myers did struggle at Durham, and the members of the Rays front office were impressed with how he fought his way back.
“To be honest, my average was dropping but I really wasn't having bad at-bats,” Myers said. “I was lining out a few times and had some bloopers not fall in. So I didn't really feel bad as a player. It's just one of those things that I knew would turn around, and eventually I got better pitches to hit and started squaring up balls a little bit better. It's just one of those things you go through every now and then throughout the year.”
Myers said he wasn't as concerned with his call-up as others. The organizational line was Myers would let them know when he was ready to be called up. Myers said he felt he did that during the Bulls' last homestand.
“I felt good at the plate. I was recognizing pitches early in the count, laying off balls outside of the zone,” he said. “I was feeling good then. I felt like a big-league player at the plate.”
The Rays sent Myers to Triple-A to begin the season because they wanted to get to know him better as a player and a person, and because they wanted him to improve his overall game — hitting, defense, base running. After nearly three months in Durham, Myers said he believes he accomplished that assignment.
“I think so,” he said. “I noticed I was taking a lot better routes in the outfield. I noticed my base running, I was able to steal more bases. I wasn't as shy on the base paths anymore. I really felt like I took some big steps at the beginning of this year.”
Myers will take his first steps as a big-leaguer at Fenway Park. He worked out for the Red Sox brass there before the 2009 draft, sending a few balls over the Green Monster during batting practice.
“It was just a cool experience for an 18-year-old to have,” he said.
After Fenway Park, it's on to Yankee Stadium for the final four games of this seven-game road trip.
Not exactly a soft landing.
“It's very exciting, obviously, being here in Boston and New York,” he said. “I think the thing I'm most excited about is just playing against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Those were two teams I saw growing up. They had all the great players, and finally I'll be playing against them.”