Smooth operator: Myers acting the part in bigs
Rays impressed with young outfielder's seamless transition to Majors
ST. PETERSBURG -- Wil Myers has been in the Major Leagues just over a week, long enough for most to acquaint themselves with his five-tool skill set.
Rays manager Joe Maddon has talked mostly about Myers' power bat -- the one that makes a different sound. But typical of the Rays avant-garde manager, he likes something different about the rookie: the way he strikes out.
Monday night, Myers homered in his first at-bat at Tropicana Field. The noise Maddon talked about could be heard -- on the front end and the back end of Myers' 422-foot drive, when it ricocheted off the center-field restaurant and back onto the field.
While Maddon did pay homage to Myers' "properly struck" blast after the game, he almost cooed when talking about the 22-year-old's strikeouts. He had two Monday night, and 140 last year while in the Kansas City farm system.
"I don't mean this sarcastically," Maddon said. "He strikes out a lot. He has struck out a lot in the past. He knows that's a part of who he is and he needs to put the bat back on the rack and get ready for the next at-bat, because he can do some damage.
"I've been around a lot of good power hitters who have that ability to separate. He has indicated that. There have been some slightly close calls that have gone against him to this point. He hasn't turned around or said anything. He puts his bat down and goes about his business, which I also like."
As for his behavior after striking out, Myers' stance is clear.
"I know that none of the umpires are going to want to see stuff like that in my first week in the big leagues," Myers said. "Whatever the umpire says is how it goes. It doesn't matter if you argue or not. It doesn't help."
And his strikeouts ...
"Because I take bigger swings, I tend to strike out more," Myers said. "It happens throughout the course of a year. That's the type of hitter I am. The strikeouts are going to come, but so are the other numbers."
Those "other numbers" are why Sam Fuld noted that "it's fun to watch" the rookie outfielder play.
"He's young, but he plays with some maturity, it feels like," Fuld said. "There's no bigger environment than playing in Fenway and Yankee Stadium, and he showed that he can handle that well. That was nice to see."
James Loney, Myers, and Fuld hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in Monday night's game. Fuld managed to retain a sense of humor about where his homer ranked.
"Mine's more like a thud," Fuld said. "His is like, 'Whack.' It's true. Yeah, no doubt. It's harder to hear in a game, but in batting practice, you get an appreciation for what that sound is like."
Among the highlights of Myers' first week in the Major Leagues was a grand slam off CC Sabathia at Yankee Stadium -- after Evan Longoria was intentionally walked -- and the rocket he hit at Tropicana Field on Monday night. He also hit safely in eight consecutive games after going hitless in the first game he played.
"I guess, in some respects [Myers has exceeded expectations]," Fuld said. "Hitting a grand slam and then hitting a ball 1,000 feet to center field, it's pretty impressive.
"But we all got to see him play in Spring Training, so we know what he's capable of. We see the power in batting practice. I don't know. A lot of times, when guys get called up, it's pretty exciting for them and they play with a lot of energy, and he's been able to channel that energy in a good way."
Myers continues to take everything in stride.
"There hasn't really been a big surprise," Myers said of the Major Leagues. "Everybody on the team has been very nice to me. The coaches have been very welcoming. I'm having a good time so far."
A big part of the equation for any hitter to stay in the Major Leagues is learning how to adjust to how pitchers attack him. Myers obviously understands that truism about the Major Leagues.
"I feel like, obviously, they know some things about me," Myers said. "Any time you move up somewhere different, it's going to be an adjustment, so I'm trying to learn from how the pitchers are throwing to me right now."
Myers has noticed that the pitchers have been "staying away from me" thus far.
"Working the outside half of the plate," Myers said. "It's one of the adjustments I need to make the first couple of weeks. I noticed they liked to pitch backwards a lot. I thought when I got up here they were going to challenge me more. ... I noticed in New York, the first two games I only got one first-pitch fastball. So I noticed the guys were really starting to pitch me backwards to begin with."
As for the highlights of his first week, Myers called opening his career in Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, "pretty sweet." And if he had his way, Derek Jeter would have been playing for the Yankees when he played against them. But ...
"The coolest thing was probably facing [Andy] Pettitte," Myers said. "That was pretty cool, just seeing him on the mound. You've watched him growing up, and now you're facing him."
Myers, who came to the Rays in the trade that sent James Shields, Wade Davis and Elliot Johnson to the Royals, has made the game look easy during his first week in the Major Leagues. Maddon knows that can't last. Baseball eventually humbles everyone.
"I'm sure the struggle is going to be there at some point," Maddon said. "You can't expect it to be smooth sailing all the time, but I do believe he has the makeup to withstand any tough moment that may occur in the future. He's done everything properly and well to this point."
While Myers has received a lot of attention in his first week in the Major Leagues and the months leading up to his arrival, he clearly isn't burdened by the spotlight or his surroundings.
"It's the same game I've been playing all my life," Myers said. "It's not really any different. The only big difference is stuff off the field, to be honest, and more fans in the stands. But, you know, I just want to treat it like the game I've played all my life."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.