Wil Myers' grand slam gains attention from Rays, Royals fans

06/22/2013 11:05 PM

06/22/2013 11:05 PM

Wil Myers is in a unique position, one that few rookies in baseball history have encountered.

His progress will be closely watched by fans of two franchises.

Myers, who made his major-league debut on Tuesday for the Rays, hit his first home run Saturday. There was nothing ordinary about the blast. It was a grand slam off CC Sabathia at Yankee Stadium. Not bad for the 22-year-old, who is Tampa Bay’s top prospect.

Of course, Myers was the Royals’ top prospect just last season after he tore through Class AA Northwest Arkansas and Class AAA Omaha. Myers was traded to Tampa Bay in the blockbuster seven-player deal last December that netted the Royals James Shields, Wade Davis and Elliot Johnson.

So it’s no surprise that Royals fans took to Twitter after Myers’ grand slam. To wit, there was this from ‏@johnnykane9: “Former prospect Wil Myers with one swing today outscored the Royals over the last 2 games. 4-3.”

Seeing Myers mash home runs in a Rays uniform was (and remains) the fear for Royals fans, who have been thrilled by the success of Shields and Davis, but lament Kansas City’s offensive woes (they were 23rd in runs scored entering Saturday’s games).

As Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2012, Myers was expected to post huge numbers. Others who won that award recently include the Angels’ Mike Trout, the Braves’ Jason Heyward and the Reds’ Jay Bruce. All three have been All-Stars.

That’s why the Rays have tried to tamp down the hype after calling him up from Class AAA.

“We’ll probably hit him lower in the batting order to begin, just to take a little pressure off of him,” manager Joe Maddon told reporters earlier in the week. “We’ll try not to place the expectations too high, although I know it’s going to come from outside, not from within.”

Still, Maddon couldn’t help but gush a bit.

“He is really a better athlete than people told me,” Maddon said. “He’s very good in the outfield. He runs well, throws well. He’s eager, a good kid.”

But after Saturday’s outing (Myers pushed his average to .280 after collecting three hits), it’ll be difficult for people not to be excited — in Florida and Kansas City. After all, ESPN noted that Myers is the youngest player to hit a grand slam in Yankee Stadium since Ken Griffey Jr. (age 21) in 1991.

“It was just awesome to be down two strikes and the crowd cheering and to be able to put a swing like that on it,” Myers said of his grand slam. “Just a cool experience.”

Three up

• After seeing his average plummet to .167 on May 21, Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks has since batted .351 with a .982 OPS, heading into Saturday.

• San Diego pitcher Jason Marquis has won his last eight decisions and has a 3.22 ERA in that span.

• The Blue Jays have won 10 straight and now have a winning record.

Three down

• Cole Hamels is first Phillies pitcher with 11 losses before the end of June since 1937 (Wayne LaMaster, Claude Passeau).

• The Rangers rotation is 1-8 with a 5.48 ERA in the month of June, heading into Saturday.

• The Yankees’ Vernon Wells had a big hit on Saturday, but he is batting .126 in his last 111 at-bats and hasn’t hit a home run since May 15.

Statistically speaking

• The Yankees are 24-0 this season when scoring five runs or more and are the only team in the majors that remained undefeated in those circumstances.

• In the Tigers’ first 71 games, Prince Fielder batted .500 (19 for 38) with three homers and 26 RBIs following a walk or hit-by-pitch to teammate Miguel Cabrera, who bats ahead of him in the Tigers’ order.

• Despite Yasiel Puig’s dominant play, the Dodgers were 7-10, heading into Saturday, since he was recalled.

• With 10 home runs this season, Astros catcher Jason Castro is eight away from breaking the club’s all-time, single-season record of 17 for a backstop, set by John Bateman in 1966.

• From ESPN’s Buster Olney: The Padres have hit five of the six homers generated against Clayton Kershaw this season.

On deck

• Boston’s David Ortiz is three doubles away from 500 for his career.

• The Reds and A’s play a two-game set starting Tuesday in one of the more intriguing interleague meetings (and a 1990 World Series rematch).

• The Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco is 13 strikeouts shy of 1,000.

You need to know

• The Rockies are 0-9 all-time in Toronto, getting swept in 2002, 2007 and 2013.

• According to MLB.com, heading into Saturday there have been 35 extra-inning games this month. Since 1998, most in any June is 44, in 2007.

• The Dodgers play 19 of their final 23 games before the All-Star break against NL West foes. LA is 9-23 in the division this season.

• San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick hit 87 mph on the radar gun while throwing out the first pitch before the Giants’ game on Friday.

• From ESPN: the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole threw eight pitches at 100+ mph on Friday. All other starters in MLB this year have combined for one (the Mets’ Matt Harvey).

• Astros designated hitter Chris Carter leads the majors in strikeouts with 105 and is on a pace to whiff 223 times this year, a total that would tie a record set by Mark Reynolds in 2009.

• Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn is the fourth starter in major-league history to win 28 of his first 35 career decisions, per MLB Network.

• SABR historian Rod Nelson reports that Caleb Gindl, who debuted with the Brewers on June 15, is only the third major-leaguer officially listed at 5 feet 7 inches and 200-plus pounds. Gindl joins Angel Salome who played for the Brewers in 2008 and Bill Byers who played for the Cardinals in 1904.

Words of wisdom

“(Brandon) Crawford asked me the same thing. I just said, ‘Maybe I got into the wine too much last night.’”

| Giants manager Bruce Bochy when asked about batting Crawford third in a game this past week


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