Myers' plan: Move on from Fenway experience
Rays' young star never wants to have pivotal gaffe in playoffs happen again
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Not exactly Wil Myers' fondest memory.
Flash back to October and Fenway Park for Game 1 of the American League Division Series. David Ortiz hits a deep fly ball to right in the bottom of the fourth and, somehow, Myers, Tampa Bay's rookie right fielder lets the ball drop in for a ground-rule double. The moment led to a five-run inning and proved to be a pivotal moment during a 12-2 Rays loss to the Red Sox.
Myers, 23, smiled when asked about the moment.
"That's something that you never want to happen in your career, ever," Myers said. "It stinks that it happened. Honestly it's the worst thing that's ever happened to me in baseball. It's embarrassing for something like that to happen."
During the offseason, Myers finally watched the play for the first time.
"It was just weird watching me make that type of play," he said. "It's just one of those things that stuck in my mind all of this offseason. And I really think that helped me prepare this offseason. It left a bitter taste in my mouth."
In the aftermath of Myers' botched fly ball, Red Sox fans taunted him by chanting his name. Fenway's public flogging has not left a scar on Myers, who has managed to roll with the punches.
"You know what, thinking about it, when it was going on, it stunk," Myers said. "But having everybody at Fenway Park chant your name, it's kind of cool. Obviously I know it's one of those things where they don't forget about it. They're smart baseball fans. They know what's going on."
Myers understands he had better get used to having his name chanted at Fenway Park.
"It's going to happen this year, too," Myers said. "You just have to embrace it. It's just one of those things that happen in baseball. Boston fans know that play really changed the momentum of that game. Looking back on it, [the taunting] was kind of funny. I'm excited to go back to Boston this year and be out there again, and hopefully redeem myself."
Repetition and not redemption is on the minds of Rays fans. They just want to see more of the same from Myers, who earned the American League Rookie of the Year Award for his work in 2013.
Despite not joining Tampa Bay until its 70th game on June 18, Myers led AL rookies with 53 RBIs compiled in the 88 games he played. The last player to lead AL rookies in RBIs in fewer than 90 games was Detroit's Hoot Evers in 1946, when he had 33 in 81 games.
Myers also hit .293 with 13 home runs, which helped lead the Rays to their fourth playoff appearance in six years. Tampa Bay was three games over .500 when he arrived (36-33). Then, with Myers in lineup, the team had an 18-games-over-.500 (56-38) finish.
Myers came to the Rays on Dec. 9 as the marquee player received in the trade that sent James Shields to the Royals.
The rookie captured the imaginations of Tampa Bay fans with his big swing, the fact he didn't wear batting gloves and the perception he was not affected by pressure. Fellow Rays outfielder David DeJesus noted that the youngster's outward appearance can be misleading.
"He's the type of guy, people have a misconception about him, like he's no batting gloves and whatever," DeJesus said. "That couldn't be farther from the truth. He's a competitor. He wants to win at everything. He has a passion for baseball that's great to see at the young age he's at. And I feel the sky's the limit for him. He just has to keep on working."
Myers is already fielding questions about avoiding the dreaded "sophomore jinx" in his second Major League season. He greets such questions with a smile and a shrug.
"I don't believe in that," Myers said. "I think the thing about it for me was just to try not to get too complacent in the offseason. Try to work hard. I didn't want to think, 'OK, I'm going to make the team, so I'm fine this offseason.' I really want to come out this offseason and work hard to get better to improve this year."
If anybody on the Rays is qualified to answer questions about how to handle the sophomore jinx, Evan Longoria is the guy. He responded to winning the 2008 AL Rookie of the Year Award with a solid campaign in his second year.
"I think that he's probably heard [the sophomore jinx] before and he knows what to expect," Longoria said. "He knows that there's going to be more expectation on him this year and more that he needs to do in order to overcome that and learn from certain things."
Getting victimized by the sophomore jinx normally stems from an inability to make adjustments, at least according to Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon and hitting coach Derek Shelton. Myers didn't dispute that idea, but the ever-confident sophomore thinks he already has a pretty good idea about how to adjust.
"My August last year was pretty bad," said Myers, who hit .209 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in August. "I made some adjustments going into September, with the outside pitch, especially. So I think I made those adjustments throughout the season."
When asked if a hitter can think too much while trying to make said adjustments, Myers responded, "No, I don't think so. I know what I did wrong and I know how to correct it for this year."
Shelton believes the key for Myers picking up this season where he left off will be up to Myers, who must not try to do too much.
"I think a lot of people who get into situations do so when they try to do things other than what they have done that has made them successful," Shelton said. "But I'm not concerned about it with Wil. He's a confident kid and extremely talented. So I think he's going to build on what he did last year."
Maddon is happy to have Myers. He believes the Rays right fielder has a great future in front of him.
"He's a young man," Maddon said. "He's got a really wonderful future to look forward to. He's good. Any organization would like to have him on the team. OK, he had a tough first experience in the playoffs. It's an experience, learn from it and move on from it."