Tampa Bay Rays
Rays patient despite prospects' numbers
ST. PETERSBURG -
The numbers certainly get your attention.
Hak-Ju Lee took a .419 batting average into Saturday for the Triple-A Durham Bulls. His teammate, Jason Bourgeois, was batting .370.
There's more. Leslie Anderson was hitting .347, followed by Cole Figueroa at .311 and, of course, Wil Myers at .300.
Those numbers look good anytime, but especially now compared with the averages among the Rays, which get your attention for a decidedly different reason.
Small sample size was the popular refrain as the Rays slogged through their 2-7 road trip. Too small and too early to draw conclusions.
And, of course, that is true.
And, of course, the same can be applied to the guys at Durham. Plus, Myers and company where not facing guys like Derek Holland, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. And the were not playing in three-deck stadiums or in front of rabid Red Sox fans or on national TV.
The idea that the organization needs to get Myers to Tampa Bay to save the Rays' season is moot because it's not going to happen now.
The Rays spent the offseason putting together this roster and, while it's not the '27 Yankees, they're not going to dismantle it this soon.
Besides, there are no guarantees that success at Triple-A will translate into success at the major leagues.
As Rays manager Joe Maddon said before a recent game in Baltimore, “The difference between Triple-A and the major leagues is really a large matter — it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
Maddon was paraphrasing Mark Twain.
Here is what Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said on the subject: “You overact to certain things and you can do more harm than good.”
Myers will play for the Rays this season, but it will happen when the Rays believe he is ready and not a day sooner.
Myers is the big name among the position players at Durham. He is the 2012 minor-league player of the year, the guy the Rays traded away James Shields and Wade Davis to get, the guy the Rays figure to be a big bat in their lineup.
But, the Rays also sent Myers to Durham to work on a few things and there is no way he's already met those requirements.
Lukevics said no formula exists for determining when a player gets his call to the big leagues.
“We're not going to put a formula like pi R squared equals player should be moved, because there are so many variables that come into place when moving a player,” he said.
The checklist includes a number of items: Is the player physically ready? Is he mentally ready? Does he get along with his teammates? Will he fit in with the big-league club? Is there a need at the big-league club?
“It's a feel and, believe it or not, the mental maturation of a young player is really huge in the movement of a player,” Lukevics said. “He's having success at one level, can he have it at the next level where he's being challenged, the game is faster? Do we think he's mature enough to handle that? Sometimes not, even when you see some fairly good statistics. If we're going to err on anything we're going to err on the side of caution.
“Moving players prematurely can be devastating to players. Now they're not having the success we want them to have. Now we have to send them back, and that's devastating to a young man.”
It's more than just batting averages and ERAs.
“Sometimes when a young player is statistically doing well, well sometimes you want that young man to statistically do well and dominate a league and show you over the course of time that he has that staying power to do that,” Lukevics said.
There is also this: to bring Myers up now will suggest there is panic in Tampa Bay and that Myers is here to save the season. That's a lot of pressure to hang on a 22-year-old who has never played in a big-league game.
“Putting the weight on any one young man is a very difficult and unfair thing to do. Things happen in due time,” Lukevics said. “The game is hard enough. Going to the big leagues is hard enough. And then you put pressure on the kid, that makes it even more difficult. It's easy to move him, but the timing might not be right. All of us are challenged with these decisions on a daily basis.”