Wil Myers carried a bat Tuesday morning at Tropicana Field as he stepped out of the dugout and walked toward home plate. The young man who hit 37 minor league home runs a season ago and is expected to bring that same power to the Tampa Bay Rays lineup was about to send baseballs to the farthest reaches of the Trop.
Actually, no. With a set of bleachers stretching from short left field through short center field in preparation for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game, Myers and the rest of the position players attending this week's Winter Development Program were regulated to bunting.
"I can bunt," Myers said.
And so he did.
But the Rays acquired Myers, the 2012 consensus minor league player of the year from Kansas City in December in the trade that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals, because of the potential in his bat and what they expect to be above-average defense in center field.
The question Tuesday, and the question nearly every day between now and when Myers claims a locker in the Rays clubhouse, is: When will he arrive in the big leagues?
The Royals did not promote the 22-year-old last season and the Rays will likely start the season with Myers at Triple-A Durham.
"It's every person's dream to be in the major leagues," Myers said. "So, obviously, that's my goal. Every ballplayer has confidence that they're ready for the Major League level, but that's not my decision. That's for the front office. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity."
Andrew Friedman, the Rays executive vice president of baseball, was asked when that opportunity might occur for Myers.
"I don't know the answer to that," Friedman said. "We'll see him in spring training and get all these guys out there and see where things stand. We still got some work to do this winter, so it's way too early to answer any specific questions just because relievers, things can change if we add someone, bats, things can change, so it's too early right now even though it is mid- to late-January, but we still have some work to do."
Friedman said he's still looking to add relief pitching and one to two bats. Trades are a possibility, but free agency is more likely. If he can land an everyday designated hitter, fine. If not, the DH will likely be a rotation of position players.
Where Myers fits in all of this will be better learned during spring training when the Rays get their first real look at him.
"We don't know him. We haven't seen him play," Friedman said. "We have a lot of scouting reports and information, but you can't simulate being around a guy, watching him prepare, the way he goes about things, the way he fits into the Rays way of doing things. It's too early to say."
Friedman has watched Myers take swings in the batting cage this week and likes what he's seen.
"His body looks good," Friedman said. "He really got the bat through the zone well."
Rays manager Joe Maddon indicated in December that Myers will begin the season at Durham, a move Maddon said helps young players – especially ones who come with high expectations. The transition from Triple A to the major leagues is easier if the player has a month or two under his belt when the move is made.
Myers said he is fine with that scenario, especially since he lives less than an hour from Durham. He said he already shot some promotional video for the Bulls.
Plus, Myers added, you can never be too ready to face big league pitching and he would use the time in Durham to improve his skills as a center fielder.
"I really take my defense serious, especially moving to center field last year," he said. "It's something I'm working on every day in the offseason, just working on my jumps and my speed."
He knows the question of his arrival in Tampa Bay will be frequently asked during spring training and the hype surrounding his potential will grow until the day he finally reaches the big leagues and puts that potential into practice.
"I just try to stay away from it," Myers said of the expectations. "I just want to go out and do my job and just try to get better every day."