Myers' prospects not dampened by soggy debut
BOSTON -- It was a nondescript, not to mention damp, Major League debut for Wil Myers, the No. 1 prospect of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Myers went 1-for-7 in his first day and night in the big leagues Tuesday at Fenway Park. The Rays lost to the Red Sox, 5-1, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader, and 3-1 in the second. In the fifth inning of the first game, play was halted by rain for two hours, 59 minutes.
On the plus side, Myers singled in his first at-bat in the night game and said he felt more comfortable in his second game than his first. And, in Myers' first brush with the big leagues, he came across exactly as Rays manager Joe Maddon said he would -- unassuming, without pretense, open and affable.
Myers was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year in 2012, when he bashed both Double-A and Triple-A pitching in the Royals' farm system. This season, he is ranked No. 4 among all prospects by MLB.com. When the Rays obtained him in the trade that sent pitcher James Shields to Kansas City, there was shock in some quarters that the Royals were willing to part with a player as talented as Myers, even in a deal that included an established starter such as Shields.
The Rays resisted the temptation to put Myers on the Opening Day roster this season. The Rays, who have a track record of developing talent at precisely the right pace, waited until Myers essentially hit his way into the big leagues. He obliged, hitting .354 over his last 23 games with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs at Triple-A Durham.
So there was Myers Tuesday, playing against the division-rival Red Sox, batting sixth and playing right field in both games. His debut was not the stuff of legend.
Matched against Boston spot starter Alfredo Aceves in his first at-bat, Myers came up with two on and no outs in the second inning. Aceves had just walked Evan Longoria and James Loney -- Loney on four pitches. In a situation in which the next pitch is often taken, Myers went after the first offering he saw and flied out to short center field.
"I was a little anxious there, swinging at the first pitch, you usually don't swing at that one," Myers said. "I'm not a guy that takes a lot of pitches, anyway. But I should have got a better pitch to hit right there. I just got out of my approach a little bit, obviously, being the first game."
In the fourth inning, with one out and nobody on, Myers worked the count full before flying to right. In the seventh, against towering lefty reliever Andrew Miller, Myers took a called third strike on a slider. Leading off the ninth against veteran lefty reliever Craig Breslow, Myers flied to center on the first pitch.
Myers fielded routine chances routinely in right. In the first game, he had difficulty with a ball in the right-field corner on a triple hit by Shane Victorino, but the angle of the wall in that region of Fenway gives veteran outfielders trouble, too. In the second game, Myers made a fine running catch on a deep drive to right-center.
Asked to sum up Myers' first game, Maddon said: "Just not a whole lot was there today. He was out there in right field, he moved around well. He had his batting helmet on in the first inning, even though he was hitting sixth, which I like. So, he was very eager today."
Asked about having his helmet on in the first inning, Myers responded with a smile: "I'm used to hitting in the first inning, usually. I was excited for the game and I was just ready to hit."
The initial big league experience for Myers, apart from the losses and the 1-for-7 effort, was positive. When he was asked how long he had been waiting for this day, Myers replied, "Pretty much all my life."
"It was awesome," Myers said. "The first time in the big leagues was really cool. It was an awesome experience playing in my first big league game here at Fenway. It was just a good experience."
Maddon gave Myers some pregame advice, the wisdom of which seemed indisputable. It boiled down to: Enjoy the game and play hard. Between Myers' talent and his down-to-earth approach, Maddon figures that Myers should not have a problem making the move to the Majors.
"He's going to be fine," Maddon said. "We just have to get him out there and settled down. He's going to be just fine. He's definitely fine here. I don't think he's in awe of anything. ... He was not overwhelmed by the moment."
Myers also showed a mature willingness to see the side of an argument that was opposing his side. In the second game, he was called out on a 3-2 pitch. The pitch initially appeared to be outside and Myers made a move toward first. But upon further review: "That ball was on the plate," Myers said. "I had it a little bit outside, but I came back and checked the replay and it was on the plate."
At the end of an otherwise long day, Myers had his first Major League hit and his judgment was intact.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.