DETROIT -- It was hard to miss the bright gold chain Jose Siri wore when he first met with the Tampa Bay media in front of his new locker at Tropicana Field on Tuesday. So I had to ask: What does the “100” around his neck -- angled upward and underlined twice, like an expensive emoji -- mean?
Siri flashed a big smile, laughed and answered in English: “A hundred percent every time!”
After Siri singled, stole second and scored the go-ahead run Wednesday afternoon, it was hard to miss the actual 💯 emoji tattooed on his left forearm. It’s a pretty good indicator of how the newest Ray approaches the game: 100 percent effort at everything, every time.
“Everything,” Siri confirmed through interpreter Manny Navarro. “Running, hitting, in the dugout, on the field, even at my house.”
That much has been clear in his first week as the Rays’ regular center fielder. The 27-year-old runs hard and often, like he did while legging out a hustle double in the second inning Thursday night at Comerica Park. He swings hard and often, whether he makes contact or not. It doesn’t take much to get Siri fired up. He lays out to make every play he can.
“I thought I had a lot of energy, but that guy has more than me,” fellow newcomer David Peralta said, smiling. “I'm trying to keep up with him, but love it. That's what you need. Good energy, positive vibe, and everything around you is going to get better.”
“Yeah, he's got a lot of energy,” Siri responded, laughing, through Navarro. “But when ‘El Rayo’ shows up, that's when a lot of the energy comes out.”
“El Rayo,” a nickname Siri picked up playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, could translate directly to “the Ray” (convenient!) or, in his case, a bolt of lightning. When the Rays acquired “El Rayo” as part of a three-team trade on Monday, they were certainly hoping he’d provide a spark.
“We want him to go out there and be energetic,” manager Kevin Cash said. “When you lose players that we’ve lost, core players that are injured for whatever reason, that cuts into a little bit of the dynamic of your team. Not just on the field, but the mentality of the team. And this is a guy that, over many seasons, people have talked about [how] he’s a high-energy player. He really likes to express himself in the dugout. He’s a good teammate. Encouraged him to keep doing that.”
There’s a wide range of opinions out there regarding Siri. Some evaluators believe his struggles to make contact at the plate will keep him from being an everyday player. The Rays believe Siri could be an impact player due to his elite defense -- they’ve said his name in the same sentence as Kevin Kiermaier, which says as much as anything -- and what president of baseball operations Erik Neander called his “premium tools.”
It will take time to see if Siri will live up to the Rays’ high expectations, but the physical abilities are there. It’s evident he’ll be given an opportunity to put it all together, and you can see -- around his neck and on his forearm -- how committed he is to proving himself.
“I think I play a pretty big game, play pretty aggressive,” Siri said through Navarro. “I’m very thankful that I’m here, and I’m ready for it.”