Brignac giving Rays depth
Shortstop behind Bartlett, Beckham, but team high on prospect
TAMPA, Fla. -- Reid Brignac is so close to becoming a Major Leaguer, he now feels it's just a matter of timing.
"It's whenever they think it's the right time for me to be here," Brignac said.
Brignac, 23, got called up to Tampa Bay from Triple-A Durham on July 3, when starting shortstop Jason Bartlett went on the 15-day disabled list. Brignac started at shortstop and batted ninth in his July 4 Major League debut against the Royals, going 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in the Rays' 11-2 win.
Brignac played four games at shortstop and started twice in his less-than-auspicious stint in the Major Leagues that saw him go 0-for-10 at the plate and make two errors.
Despite the showing, Brignac doesn't feel like he was overmatched in the bigs.
"It's still baseball," Brignac said. "Nine guys on the field. You're still competing against the other team. Everything's the same, you know, except the stadiums are bigger. I think if you stay focused, come in every day with the right attitude, practice and play hard, you'll be fine."
The native of St. Amant, La., did acknowledge that Major League pitching was different.
"The pitchers were more consistent with their pitches," Brignac said. "Of course, that's the big leagues, so they're the best pitchers in the world."
Brignac said of the pitchers he faced, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was "pretty impressive, I'm not going to lie." But "I look forward to facing him again," Brignac quickly added.
"All the pitchers are good in the big leagues," Brignac said. "You just have to believe you're good as well, that you can compete against these guys."
Manager Joe Maddon saw something he liked during Brignac's abbreviated stint with the Rays.
"What stood out about this guy is his makeup -- it's outstanding," said Maddon, who referenced a big game against the Yankees, when he approached the mound to meet with the pitcher and saw how relaxed Brignac seemed to be. "That was a nice moment."
However, timing could be a problem for Brignac, who is ranked No. 78 out of Baseball America's Top 100 prospects. Bartlett starts for Tampa Bay now, and Tim Beckham, the No. 1 overall pick of last year's Draft, is fast approaching. Will Bartlett continue to be the Rays' shortstop? And if not, will Brignac beat Beckham to the draw? Such questions represent the formula for driving oneself crazy.
"I don't really pay attention to all of that," Brignac said. "I just come here and prepare to practice and play."
For now, Brignac gives Tampa Bay depth at shortstop.
"He needs to primarily get the offensive up a bit," Maddon said. "But if there was a need, I'm fine with bringing him up."
Brignac still has an option, which means Tampa Bay doesn't have to protect him, so he'll likely begin the season at Durham, where he'll continue to play shortstop. In advance of being in a position where they have to find a spot for him next season, the Rays have Brignac getting in some work in at second base this spring.
The fact the Rays have not jammed his locker full of gloves for many different positions speaks volumes about their opinion of him as a shortstop.
"I don't want to consider him utility," Maddon said. "But I like the idea of him being able to play both middle infield positions."
Rays infield coach Tom Foley said the club still consider Brignac a shortstop.
"He's a shortstop, we know he's a shortstop, we tell him he's a shortstop," Foley said. "He's going to play shortstop. But it doesn't hurt for him to go over [to second base]. We've got a pretty good shortstop up here in the big leagues in Bartlett. But it's just like any other infielder. Let him see if he can play the other positions. You never know what's going to happen. It just increases his value as a player."
How it all shakes out for Brignac remains to be seen. In the meantime, he will continue to stay ready.
"If I get sent down, I'll just go down there and keep working," Brignac said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.