It will be a few more weeks before Rays manager Joe Maddon sees Wil Myers in person, watches the kid's already legendary swing up close. But Maddon is quickly becoming a fan of the 2012 minor league player of the year plucked from the Royals farm system in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade.
"I'm more interested not in that he's going to hit 30 homers, I'm more interested in what people think of him and how he answers question and I'm trying to determine what makes this guy tick," Maddon said. "From what I've heard so far I do discern calm, I do discern self-confidence, and I do discern a team player, which is all good stuff. All that other stuff, the stats, that should take care of itself. But we have high expectations of winning, and we're looking for that stage three player turning into a stage five player as soon possible, going from I belong to I want to win."
By now we should all be familiar with Maddon's five stages of a major league player:
1. Happy to be here.
2. Trying to survive.
3. I belong here.
4. I want to make my money.
5. I want to win.
"The stage one and stage two guys, you lose with those guys," Maddon said.
Just don't expect Myers to begin moving toward stage five on April 2 when the season begins.
While the Rays like to delay the arbitration/free agent clock on all their young players, Myers will most surely begin the year at Triple A Durham so he can continue to develop and so he can build the confidence that comes with playing everyday before he faces the bright lights of the major leagues for the first time.
"I've always felt that it should be easier for a young player to make the team season in progress as opposed to out of spring training," Maddon said. "When they make the team out of spring training expectations get raised even higher, and I think if you're really looking for a young man to apply pressure to himself it's then, when he makes it out of camp and Opening Day comes and all the stuff is being written and it's tough. It's not an easy place to be, because you go from spring training when people are getting ready to the season, when they turn it up a notch."
Maddon listed a number of key contributors to the Angels 2002 World Series champion team who joined the big club for the first time while the season was already in progress.
Jim Edmonds was a September call-up in 1993. Garrett Anderson made his debut in July 1994. Darin Erstadt came up for the first time in June 1996. Tim Salmon reached the bigs in August 1992. Troy Percival came up April 26, 1995.
In fact, the last five position players to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award – Mike Trout (2012), Evan Longoria (2008), Dustin Pedroia (2007), Bobby Crosby (2004) and Angel Berroa (2003) – either made their debuts after the season began (Longoria) or reached the big leagues for a short time in previous years.
You have to go back to 2002 AL ROY Eric Hinske to find one whose major league debut came on opening day.
"My experience has been it's always been good when a guy comes up in season," Maddon said.
The wish list
Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he wants to add "one to two" more relievers and "a bat or two."
Roberto Hernandez, signed early last week to a one-year deal, has incentive clauses bases on innings pitched and appearances, meaning he could work out of the bullpen if he doesn't earn a spot in the rotation.
That Hernandez has pitched more than 200 innings twice during his career with the Indians means he could be the replacement for Shields in the rotation, which would then return some of the depth at starting pitching lost when Shields was traded.
Friedman said free agents J.P. Howell and Kyle Farnsworth are in the mix of relievers the Rays are looking to sign.
A happy Thanksmas
Maddon served approximately 650 meals and raised almost $18,000 during his annual Thanksmas program that served meals and donated food, shoes and blankets to area Salvation Armies in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater.