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Rays rookie Myers rising to challenge

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Published:   |   Updated: June 28, 2013 at 12:17 PM

ST. PETERSBURG - Wil Myers used the words "cool" or "awesome," or both, to answer nearly every question he was asked during his first nine days in the big leagues, and who can blame him?

Nearly everything he has done since joining the Rays on June 18, from making his major-league debut at Fenway Park to hitting a grand slam off CC Sabathia at Yankee Stadium for his first career home run, has been either cool or awesome, or both.

His teammates use other words to describe the first steps of what has the potential to be a long and successful career for the 22-year-old rookie right fielder.

"Impressive," bench coach Dave Martinez said.

"Quiet confidence," outfielder Sam Fuld said.

"Tons of potential," utility fielder Sean Rodriguez said.

Myers was hitless in his first big-league game and hitless again Wednesday, when the Rays were stymied by Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

In between, Myers had an eight-game hitting streak. He drove in eight runs, smacked a pair of eye-opening home runs, challenged and beat the arm of Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista by going from first to third in Tuesday's win - "That's a guy we normally don't run on," Martinez said - and beat out an infield single in his first meeting against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

He was also 2-for-3 with five RBIs when following an intentional walk - two to Evan Longoria and one to James Loney.

"They're a rare breed, the guys who come up here and just sense it with their body language and the way they are that they belong here," Fuld said. "I think most of us humans kind of have reservations. We're super excited, but we're still trying to figure out if we belong here. He has the quiet confidence that he's been destined for this moment for as long as he can remember."

Myers was told before Wednesday's game that playing in the big leagues is supposed to be hard.

"It is hard," he said. "The guys are good up here. Real good."

He is being challenged by fastballs. Pitchers are throwing breaking pitches early in the count, and they have better control of their off-speed pitches than Myers was used to dealing with at Triple-A.

Myers said he would like to get more comfortable at the plate, that he still doesn't quite have that "feel" that he normally has at this point of the season.

'I'm getting a little jumpy at the plate," he said. "I think it's from being in the first week in the big leagues."

Martinez said Myers is eager to learn and peppers the coaches with questions. After working with outfield coach George Hendrick on tracking fly balls under Tropicana Field's catwalks and unforgiving cover, Myers approached Martinez with a plan on how he wanted to play right field during his first homestand in the big leagues.

"He said he had a little trouble with depth perception," Martinez said, "so he came to me and said, 'I'm going to play a little deeper because I'm having trouble until I get adjusted to playing indoors.' I said, 'That's totally fine. I'm glad you mentioned it, instead of me telling you what to do.' So he's pretty aware of what he needs to do."

Martinez said Myers plays "loose," a trait Martinez said you find only in the top players.

"You watch him in every situation and he's always the same," Martinez said.

Fuld said he's noticed that while watching Myers bat. He's always aggressive.

"In Fenway, he swung early in counts and just missed some pitches, but he stayed aggressive and stayed confident," Fuld said. "That's a sign that he's not going to panic, not going to get out of his zone because he's an aggressive hitter and he's going to stay aggressive."

Fuld said he's also been impressed with his two-strike approach.

"He doesn't panic," Fuld said. "I don't know, everything about him, he doesn't seem fazed. He's excited when he hits his home run, but it's almost like, 'Yeah, well there's going to be a couple, two hundred more of those.' He's just relaxed. All in all, it's impressive to see, and it's fun. His skills are evident."

Rodriguez said he can easily see why the Rays were willing to trade James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for the package of prospects that included Myers as the centerpiece.

"He has loads of talent, loads of power," Rodriguez said. "He's a better athlete than most people think. He has a good head on his shoulders. I like what I see. I think we should keep him."

rmooney@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7227

Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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