2/14/2013 2:21 P.M. ET
Rays like what they hear from phenom Myers
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Spring Training has always held a special place for phenoms, and the Rays certainly have theirs. Let the Wil Myers hype begin.
The heralded rookie took batting practice Thursday along with other position players who have reported early to camp, which allowed Rays manager Joe Maddon to later enjoy a chuckle when meeting with reporters.
"I didn't get to see him [hit]; I was over there on the other field, but when he hit the ball, I thought it was thunder," smiled Maddon, bringing the familiar twinkle to his eye.
Myers came to the Rays from the Royals, along with right-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard, in exchange for right-handers James Shields and Wade Davis and a player to be named, who turned out to be Elliot Johnson.
Clearly, Myers, 22, arrived as the sexiest of the prospects acquired given the Rays' need for offense. So a lot of eager eyes watched Thursday while Myers swung the bat -- including a contingent from the front office led by Andrew Friedman, executive vice president of baseball operations. Myers, who stands 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, didn't disappoint, slashing balls to all fields and depositing at least a half a dozen balls over the fence.
"He was hitting the ball like a grown man," said Sean Rodriguez, who shagged balls during Myers' session.
When Rodriguez was asked if he understood the hype surrounding Myers, Rodriguez said: "Oh, man. That's some pop."
The first impression of Myers around camp was that he is a man of few words. Of his first day, he said simply: "I had some nerves when I first stepped in. I just wanted to take a couple of good swings just to relax a little bit. But I think it went well."
Derek Shelton watched the session, and the Rays hitting coach spoke glowingly of the coveted prospect.
"It was impressive," said Shelton, who saw Myers hit during winter "a little bit."
"The thing that's the most impressive is the bat speed," Shelton said. "The way the ball comes off his bat. You can see it not only when he's hitting on the field, but when he's hitting off a tee. You don't see very many people who generate that kind of bat speed. First day, yeah, it's exciting to see."
Shelton noted that the sound of the ball coming off Myers' bat is unique, adding to the budding mythology of Phenom Myers.
"It's a different sound," Shelton said. "You see that when you see the bat speed or the torque he creates. It's loud. You don't hear many guys that can create that sound."
Where does Myers' bat speed rank with some of the guys on the team right now?
"It's near the top," Shelton said.
Myers' lanky frame has drawn comparisons to former Major Leaguer Dale Murphy, whom Myers actually resembles somewhat facially.
"He's loose," Shelton said of Myers. "He's got those long arms -- that kind of plays into the power. Why, he's had a little bit of swing and miss in the Minor Leagues, but there's definitely some generation of some torque coming through there."
While Shelton likes what he has seen, he's seen only a small sample. But he said that he looked forward to working with Myers.
"I think any time you have a kid with that kind of bat speed, it's exciting to see," Shelton said. "Just the little bit I've been around him he seems like a fun kid to be around."
The question is: How much will he be around?
Speculation has been rampant that the Rays will keep Myers in the Minor Leagues at the beginning of the season for an undetermined length of time to delay the start of his Major League clock -- which would affect when he becomes arbitration-eligible. There is also the train of thought that leaving him down at the beginning of the season will give him a better chance of succeeding once he arrives.
Mike Trout and Bryce Harper both started last season in the Minor Leagues before arriving to the show with a bang. Maddon has favored that approach in the past.
"I totally believe that," Maddon said. "I guess Trout did that, and also Bryce Harper did that. [Evan Longoria] did that several years ago. I know a lot of people bend toward the argument based on the finances, free agency, arbitration or whatever. For me, it's a baseball decision. I don't make those other decisions."
Maddon believes that the Rays always make their decisions based on what's right for the team at that moment.
"I just think that it's easier for a player with that kind of expectation level to get some time under his belt on a Minor League level, get it rolling, get the feel going, when you know it's going well, then walk into a big league situation," Maddon said. "Not as difficult as opposed to leaving a camp with all this expectation, all this hype then having to match up to that on a Major League level right out of the chute."
Though Maddon's words seemed to discount the possibility of Myers breaking camp with the team, he offered a disclaimer noting that prospects like Myers have managed to make teams during Spring Training in the past.
"But my experience is that I think it's easier for a guy to come up in the other circumstance," Maddon said.
Meanwhile, Myers seemed eager to get to work and happy to go with the flow.
"As a player I feel like I'm Major League ready, but that's not up for me to decide," Myers said. "It's up to the front office. Right now I just want to go out and prove what I can do."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.