DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Rays first base/outfield prospect Jake Bauers claims he's never really been quick out of the gate to open a season, especially when it comes to Spring Training.But after the scorching start he's had in Grapefruit League play, the 21-year-old is surprising even himself.Bauers smashed his team-leading fourth
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Rays first base/outfield prospect Jake Bauers claims he's never really been quick out of the gate to open a season, especially when it comes to Spring Training.
But after the scorching start he's had in Grapefruit League play, the 21-year-old is surprising even himself.
Bauers smashed his team-leading fourth home run of the spring on Sunday -- and his second in as many days -- during Tampa Bay's 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Had it not been for a tall net that kept the ball in the park, the two-run blast in the fourth inning might have hit Toronto's clubhouse and office building in right field.
"This is actually really unusual for me," Bauers said. "I'm not usually a Spring Training guy, but obviously I made it a point this offseason, coming into big league camp … just to try and be comfortable and be ready, and I kind of took a little more swings and a little more time to get ready. So I think I'm a little further ahead than I normally would be.
Acquired by the Rays in 2014 as part of a three-team, 11-player trade that notably sent former American League Rookie of the Year William Myers from Tampa Bay to the Padres, Bauers is batting .423 this spring and has driven in 10 runs.
Not since Joe Maddon was managing the Rays in 2014 have visits from reporters become almost a daily occurrence for someone in the clubhouse wearing No. 70. His performance has even caught the eye of his teammates, most notably two-time Gold Glove Award-winning center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who praised Bauers on Friday in a Twitter post to his more than 44,000 followers.
As solid as Bauers' power has been, it's the way the team's No. 4 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, has worked at-bats that has Rays manager Kevin Cash raving.
"I think the power is great, but I think the way of just kind of showing what a hitter he is, he just looks like one of those pure hitters," Cash said. "He comes up, he's got the swing, he doesn't swing at many balls. I think somebody said he was 2-for-3 with a homer, walked five times and then comes up and hits a homer [Friday]. So the plate discipline in what he's done has been very impressive this spring."
Whether it's his outlook on not letting the pressure of a big league spring get to his head, or maybe even the hair, Bauers is just happy to contribute while making a few friends.
"You're always trying to kind of earn their respect and fit in and kind of make buddies with them," Bauers said. "So for [Kiermaier] to say those things, obviously it means a lot. It means a lot just to kind of be on everybody's good side."
If the young slugger keeps this up, he might just find himself a permanent spot on their side sooner than he thought.
Jeff Odom is a contributor for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.