ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There’s a history now. Another year, new comfort, more control. A return to Kansas City? That’s old hat, little reason for much pomp, little reason to create a stir.
At least, that’s what Wil Myers wants you to believe.
"Yeah," the Tampa Bay Rays’ outfielder said Sunday. "Hopefully, there’s not another press conference."
The Rays begin a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals on Monday at Kauffman Stadium, which means the built-in story lines are there. Myers played the Royals on Aug. 26 at Kauffman Stadium, going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in an 11-1 loss. Still, he remains the former face of Kansas City’s future, the One that Got Away for many in the Midwest.
The return of the reigning American League Rookie of the Year will bring buzz, even if he’d rather shrug off those feelings. He’d rather move on with his life in a different shade of blue.
"It’s just another game for me," Myers said. "The biggest thing is we want to go there and win. I know there’s a little more to it for me. But I’ll just treat it like another game."
These games, of course, present the chance for reunion. Beyond Myers, two other Rays players will rekindle old connections. Outfielder David DeJesus played for the Royals from 2003 to 2010. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi, part of the seven-player trade in December 2012 that brought Myers to Tampa Bay, started two games for the Royals in 2012 and worked from High-A Wilmington to Triple-A Omaha within Kansas City’s system from 2011 to 2012. Ties remain strong.
DeJesus lived one winning season with the Royals, an 83-79 year in 2003, though he played in just 12 major-league games that campaign. The losing offered lessons.
"It’s just being professional and understanding that it’s our job to perform at our best," DeJesus said. "Even though we’re winning or losing, our job at the front of our jersey is to go out there, to play full bore. It gives me a great (perspective) to see how it is now here, what winning is like, because I’ve been around losing a lot."
Odorizzi, meanwhile, will start Wednesday against right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. He has pitched against the Royals as part of the Rays before, allowing two runs and four hits in 3 1/3 innings in a 10-1 loss June 13 at Tropicana Field.
"It will be cool," Odorizzi said of starting at Kauffman Stadium. "I started there once in the Futures Game (in 2012). That was pretty special in itself. But now I’m on the other side of it. I’m just looking forward to going there and taking my next start. I’d be prepared the same if it wasn’t the Royals."
The Rays leave for a nine-game, 10-day road trip Sunday night, which will include stops in Cincinnati (April 11-13) and Baltimore (April 14-16), in addition to the Kansas City visit. Tampa Bay plays 19 of its next 26 games away from Tropicana Field.
"I think we look forward to it," left-hander Matt Moore said of the first road trip. "There are a couple things coming back: Who’s bringing the XBox, who’s got the TVs? I was putting my suitcase together last night jumping up and down on it, trying to get it to close. I’m bringing way too much. All those things, in a good way, they get us going for a road trip."
Outfielder Brandon Guyer was selected as the winner of the 15th Al Lopez Award, given to the Rays’ most outstanding rookie in spring training. He led the team with 22 games played and hit .302 with one home run, three RBI and five runs scored.
Guyer entered Sunday 0 for 6 with one strikeout in four regular-season games.
"I came into spring training knowing I was going to be battling for a job," said Guyer, who was named to a bench role at spring training’s end. "I made it a point not to put any pressure on myself, just to go out there and have fun and play the game."
Entering Sunday, the Rays were the only team in the majors yet to commit an error. The streak of six errorless games tied their longest run in club history to start a season, repeating last year’s feat.
MADDON’S NEW ADDITION
Rays manager Joe Maddon announced a new addition to his family Sunday: Clementine Churchill Maddon.
The timing was fitting, given that Sunday was "Dog Day at the Rays" at Tropicana Field. For $30, fans could purchase a seat in the tbt* Party Deck for the chance to bring their pet and receive a Rays-themed dog collar, a leash or a baseball chew toy.