A strong second season by 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers undoubtedly will be one of the biggest keys to the Tampa Bay Rays' success this year.
And as the outfielder reported to his second spring Tampa Bay camp more relaxed, he said there is no reason to worry about a "sophomore jinx," as he doesn't even believe in the concept and is far from complacent.
If anything, Myers is even more motivated after following up an impressive 3 1/2 months of regular-season play that was followed by a miserable week in the postseason. He went 2-for-20 in the postseason and made a costly error in the AL Division Series opener.
"I thought I had a pretty good regular season. There were some things I needed to improve on," Myers said. "The postseason -- I learned a lot from the postseason of what not to do. I got kind of out of ... the way I do things. I tried to get too pumped up, tried to do too much instead of just relax and go out there and do what I can. So it left a bitter taste in my mouth going into the offseason, which I think helped me prepare more this year."
Manager Joe Maddon said Myers has grown in many ways, though there are still things the 23-year-old can do better on and off the field.
"Once you've reached that particular level, you have to maintain that particular level," Maddon said. "Being as good as he is, as young as he is, there is that group out there that's going to try to combat what he had done last year. He's got to be aware of making adjustments as we creep into the season, or be open to that.
"That's not taking away from the visceral component that he has. He's just pretty much in the moment. He's out there playing, he's feeling things. I love that about him. But maybe raise the mental level of his game just a touch -- being a little bit more aware of what's going on around him. A really good second-year guy, that's how you avoid the proverbial sophomore jinx."
--LHP Erik Bedard signed a minor league deal with the Rays, and he has a chance to win the No. 5 starter spot opened up with the injury to RHP Jeremy Hellickson. Bedard made a solid early impression. "I think he could be a really interesting component to what we're doing here," manager Joe Maddon said. "He seems to be eager, he seems to like it. A lot of good things going on there. This guy's good. He was good last year (4-12, 4.59 ERA for Houston), and this guy could be really good. It's up to us to uncover some of the things that he may have gotten away from."
--LHP Jake McGee is working this spring to add to a repertoire that relied heavily, nearly exclusively, on fastballs both. He is mixing in a curveball and changeup in early bullpen sessions. "Hitters will have more to think about," McGee said.
--CF Desmond Jennings reported to camp noticeably bulked up, putting on at least 10-15 pounds of muscle in an effort to stay stronger into and through the season. "I get here every spring and I probably lose at least 10 pounds, so I feel I'll be around what I want to play with once the season starts," he said.
--1B James Loney said the primary reason he re-signed with the Rays, getting a three-year, $21 million deal, was how comfortable he felt around the team. "It kind of felt like that feeling I was looking for," Loney said. "I want to win with these guys. It would be fun winning with these guys. It's just that feeling you want to experience. I knew this place, I knew the people here, I knew they were committed to winning."
--C Ryan Hanigan, acquired in December from the Reds, already made a solid impression on the Rays' pitching staff with the extensive work he put in with them and watching video. "It takes a little time to get to know people and get that relationship built, but he kind of sped that process up," RHP Alex Cobb said. "That first bullpen I threw to him, he was already talking about stuff I did in the past and stuff he would like to see us try to build on and to try some new things. When you hear that right out of the gate the first time you throw a bullpen, you have nothing but trust for that guy, and you know he's working as hard as he can off the field as well as on the field to get that relationship built to the level it needs to be at."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We were in the bathtub. It was uneventful. She had already made it blatantly clear she didn't want any theatrics." -- 3B Evan Longoria, on how he proposed to longtime girlfriend Jaime Edmondson during the offseason.