ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Wil Myers returned to the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field, his cap flipped backward and optimism present.
He had been activated from the disabled list after recovery from a right wrist fracture that had kept him out 70 games. He watched the season pass since sustaining the injury May 30 at Fenway Park, a sometimes-tedious experience, and he was done as a spectator.
"The confidence is back, which I think is the most important thing," Myers said, before the Rays played the Detroit Tigers in the second game of a three-game series. "Going forward, for me, that’s what I really have to rely on."
Myers batted sixth as the Rays’ designated hitter in his first major-league action since being placed on the disabled list June 1, retroactive to May 31. He returned after a seven-game rehab assignment from Aug. 10-19 with Triple-A Durham, where he hit .250 (6 for 24) with two home runs, six RBI, seven walks and three stolen bases.
Myers’ return represents a chance for recovery in the regular season’s final weeks. The returning American League Rookie of the Year, thought to be a spark plug for the Rays’ offense all season, hit just .227 with five home runs and 25 RBI before the injury.
To make room for Myers’ return, infielder Vince Belnome was optioned to Durham, and outfielder Jerry Sands (left wrist surgery) was transferred from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list.
"I was having a very disappointing season," Myers said. "It really feels like 2011-2012 all over again, having a bad 2011 (with Double-A Northwest Arkansas), and coming back in 2012 (in Double-A and with Triple-A Omaha) and trying to prove to everybody that that was a fluke.
"I don’t necessarily see it as a make-up. I think it’s more so just me going out and proving to myself what I can do."
Early, Rays manager Joe Maddon anticipates using Myers as a designated hitter until the 23-year-old player acclimates himself to playing in the outfield again. Myers said his wrist feels fine and that his legs are "great."
Even an issue with Myers’ left wrist, which he said began early in the season when bone growth caused a tendon to inflame, improved with the time away. He said he’ll take fewer swings in the batting cage to preserve the health of both wrists.
"Wil is back in town," Maddon said. "He’s feeling really good. He’s feeling confident. He’s seeing the ball really well. We’re still going to work with him to get him back on defense. You’ll see him DH a little bit before we get him back out there. But overall, he’s doing pretty well."
The Rays can use an offensive lift however it comes. Entering Wednesday, they ranked 19th in the majors with 498 runs.
"We need his bat," Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. "And he can make a lot of things happen in the batter’s box."