Rays weigh pros, cons of bunting
Players, manager agree its not an easy task
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Putting one down. Bunting. Not the easiest thing to do for a Major League hitter. Nevertheless, a player not being able to bunt remains one of the hot-button issues for fans of the game.
"Bunting is not as easy as you think it is," Rays infield hopeful Tim Beckham said. "If you lose focus, you can easily foul one off the face, not get the job done as far as sac bunting. Sac bunting is huge. You're sacrificing your at-bat for the team. Once they're calling for you to get the bunt down, that's your job to get the bunt down."
Rays manager Kevin Cash weighed in, saying that any kind of bunting, whether for a hit or a sacrifice, is not easy.
"Bunting's difficult, man," Cash said. "It's very tough to simulate bunting in a game. You can crank a machine up and have that thing set to 95 [mph] and that's difficult, but it's a machine and you know where it's going. When you square around and could have 95 or a nasty breaking ball, it's not that easy to do."
Cash is not firmly for or against bunting, noting about sacrificing to move runners.
"It's a very individual scenario," Cash said. "Because you have to factor in whose hitting around [the guy at the plate] and timing and situation of the game. So I don't have a strong opinion either way on it."
As for his sentiments about bunting for a hit?
"The threat of that helps with the positioning and works in those guys' favor," Cash said. "And obviously most guys who are bunting have the ability to steal second base."
Brandon Guyer, Desmond Jennings and Kevin Kiermaier stood out among last year's Rays for the skill they showed in bunting for hits.
Guyer led the team with seven bunt hits, while Kiermaier and Jennings had three each. Guyer successfully converted a bunt into a single seven times in 11 tries, for a .636 batting average via the bunt.
"I feel like I did it enough last year to where I feel like every team -- even in the first game of a series -- the third baseman was playing me in," Guyer said. "So that kind of cut me down on bunting. But at the end of the day, that opened up a hole for me right there."
Guyer remembered bunting early in a game against the Blue Jays and in his next at-bat, third baseman Danny Valencia was playing him in.
"I hit a ball pretty hard to him," Guyer said. "If he's playing a normal distance, he gets it easily. But because he was in, I got a double out of it. So little things like that make me want to keep bunting it and getting it into their heads."
Kiermaier pointed out that bunting at Tropicana Field can be tricky because the artificial surface plays fast and due to the lip from the turf to the dirt that will direct a ball foul.
"But at the same time, you have to pick your times and places for it," Kiermaier said. "It's all about trying to catch those guys sleeping when you can. Use that to your advantage. But it's definitely something that I want to get a lot better at."
A successful bunt is a positive. But the idea of wasting an at-bat is always in the back of any player's mind when contemplating trying to bunt for a hit.
"The times when I do it and I bunt it right back to the pitcher, or I bunt it too hard so it's an easy out for them, it goes through my head that I'm never doing this again," Guyer said. "Because you just feel like you threw away an at-bat. But at the end of the day, I feel like a good percentage of the time, I got a hit out of it. But as hard as it is at the time, when I get myself out easily, if it's there the next day or the next at-bat, I'm going to do it, for sure."