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Souza displaying formidable pop in early going

ST. PETERSBURG -- Steven Souza Jr. may be a Major League rookie, but he certainly doesn't think like one. The outfielder's reaction to a 1-2 slider from Michael Pineda in the first inning of Sunday's game against the Yankees represented a classic case in point.

Four pitches into his first career plate appearance against Pineda, Souza was able to recognize the strategy the Yankees were planning to use against him. So he responded with a plan of his own, resulting in a two-run homer.

"Their game plan today was pretty obvious -- they were going to come at me with breaking balls," Souza said. "And so I made an adjustment.

"He hung that one and I just barreled it up."

Souza's homer, a towering fly ball that travelled well beyond the reach of Brett Gardner and into the left-field seats with David DeJesus aboard, gave the Rays a short-lived advantage in a game they would lose, 5-3.

Video: [email protected]: Souza Jr. plates his third run with a double

Rays rookies have accounted for seven of the 13 home runs the team has hit this year, with Souza furnishing a team-high three.

Last year's International League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player -- whom the Rays acquired from Washington in a deal that sent Wil Myers to San Diego -- Souza also leads the club with 10 RBIs after the first 13 games of what figures to be his first full Major League season.

By any standard of measure, Souza is off to a very promising start. But after the game, he was all about the team, and the disappointment that comes from being swept at home by a division rival.

"It would've been nice to get that win. We had several opportunities but we didn't come through as a team and get things done," said Souza, who also singled and doubled off Pineda before striking out in his final two at-bats against Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.

Like most of his Rays teammates, Souza sees Monday's scheduled day off -- before the Rays return to action Tuesday against the Red Sox -- as a well-timed break after what has been a largely positive start for the team.

"We'll take this day off and get back at it Tuesday," he said. "We've played pretty well so far up to this point. Just a bump in the road and we'll get back after it when Boston comes in."

Michael Kolligian is a contributor to
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