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Rays' Myers readies for first full big-league season

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Published:   |   Updated: February 17, 2014 at 06:12 AM

PORT CHARLOTTE — There was the Jay-Z concert, which Wil Myers attended with Tampa Bay Rays teammate Chris Archer, and the Baseball Writers' Association of America banquet, where Myers picked up his Rookie of the Year Award and mingled with Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax.

Myers wore a tuxedo for the first time in his life to the awards dinner, held at the New York Hilton in Manhattan.

“I loved that,” he said of the tux.

He had tickets to last week's Duke-North Carolina college basketball game, but that was snowed out.

Other than that, it was an uneventful offseason for Myers, whose celebrated arrival to the big leagues last June was a big reason the Rays were able to reach the postseason.

“The best thing was just hanging out at my house,” he said of his winter.

Travel? Not for him. He does enough of that during the baseball season.

Outside of taking his parents to dinner once a week, Myers spent the past four months relaxing and preparing for his first full year at the big-league level.

The 23-year-old right fielder arrived Sunday morning at Charlotte Sports Park for his second spring training as a Ray.

“I'm a lot less nervous this time,” he said. “I knew kind of what door to go in.”

Despite all he accomplished in 2013, there is plenty of room for growth in his game. His defense needs work. He could perhaps better organize his strike zone.

“Just raise the mental level of his game a touch, and be a little bit aware of what's going on around him,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

After one year in the Rays' organization, Myers is now familiar with the Ray Way. That means putting in the work on all aspects of his game, not just hitting.

“The biggest thing he learned — I think and you have to ask him that — is that we try to nurture the complete player here,” Maddon said. “He's aware of that now. I expect him to apply himself in those other areas.”

The question of the sophomore jinx, as it is with every reigning rookie if the year, was broached Sunday.

“I don't believe in that,” Myers said. “I think the thing about it is for me, it was just not trying to get too complacent this offseason and try to work hard. I didn't want to think, 'OK, I'm going to make the team so I'm fine this offseason.' I really wanted to come out this offseason and work hard to get better and improve on last year.”

Myers said he was motivated this offseason by his lack of production against Boston in the American League Division Series — just one hit in 16 at-bats.

“It left a bitter taste in my mouth going into the offseason, which I think helped me prepare more this year,” he said.

Maddon was glad to hear that.

“OK, he had a tough first experience in the playoffs. It's an experience. Learn from it and move on from it,” Maddon said. “I'm glad he said that. That's the accountability component we are looking for. He didn't make excuses. He didn't say, 'I did pretty good, but I had bad luck.' He didn't say any of that stuff, which is good.”

Myers worked out at the University of North Carolina, Wake Forest University and the University of South Carolina. He worked on his defense whenever the weather was warm enough for him to take fly balls outdoors.

Myers felt he did a good job last season adjusting to the adjustments opposing pitchers were making to get him out. Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton said there won't be as much of an emphasis on that this season.

“We're going to stay with his strengths,” Shelton said. “We're not going to adjust for other people.”

When asked what would represent a good 2014 from Myers, Shelton said, “I think he's going to be as good or better. He's going to drive in runs, which is what we need him to do. I think that's probably the biggest thing. Doing batting average or the number of home runs he's going to hit, it's hard to quantify that.

“But I think he's going to give us consistent at-bats. I think he's going to drive in runs, which is what we need. We need him to be a run producer regardless of how he does it.”

 

rmooney@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7227

Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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