Guyer preparing to take next step with Rays

Guyer preparing to take next step with Rays

Guyer preparing to take next step with Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Not until May 6 did Rays fans finally get a look at Brandon Guyer, and that night in Baltimore proved to be memorable.

All Rays fans knew about Guyer was that he was one of the four players the Rays received from the Cubs for three players -- including Matt Garza.

The Rays' brass saw that left-hander Zach Britton would be pitching for the Orioles that night. Recognizing that they had a little bit of roster flexibility at that point of the season, they recalled the right-handed-hitting Guyer from Triple-A Durham to start at Camden Yards.

The rookie outfielder proceeded to become one of the many hunches that came to fruition for the Rays in 2011 when he homered in his first Major League at-bat, helping the Rays get off to a 3-0 lead in what turned into a 6-2 win.

The 25-year-old had three stints with the Rays in 2011, compiling a .195 average with two home runs and three RBIs while playing sporadically. More indicative of the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Guyer's potential are the numbers he put up at Durham, where he hit .312 with 14 home runs and 61 RBIs in 107 games.

"I thought it went great for my first year in the organization," Guyer said. "I had a great time playing in Triple-A for [Bulls manager] Charlie [Montoyo] and playing for the Bulls. I thought I did well there. I definitely feel like I can improve my game. I feel like every aspect of my game needs some improvement, especially if I want to be in the big leagues and stick around for a while.

"Also when I was up there, I wish I could have done a little better. But that's baseball. You're going to find times where you're not successful. I think it happened for a reason. It gave me a lot of motivation for this offseason to work hard and come into Spring Training in the best shape possible, ready to compete for a job."

Joe Maddon was impressed enough by Guyer's ability and how he fit in for the Rays manager to tell reporters in September that Guyer would have a chance to compete for a starting job in the outfield in the spring.

To that end, Guyer already has begun his offseason training at his home in Rockville, Md. Included in his conditioning this offseason will be some mixed martial arts training, pilates, and yoga.

"I want to try and get stronger and more flexible," Guyer said.

As for playing the game, Guyer believes he knows where he needs to improve.

"I think at the plate I need to work on being more patient and selective," Guyer said. "Especially up in the big leagues. You don't want to get out swinging at their pitch. You want to look for your pitch. Be aggressive, but don't just swing at everything."

While Guyer played in just 15 games for the Rays in 2011, he managed to gain an appreciation for how big of a step it is to go from Triple-A to the Major Leagues.

"I would say the main difference is the pitchers make a lot fewer mistakes," Guyer said. "Plus, the defenders up here are a lot more athletic and they might be positioned a little better. So you know, certain balls you hit that might be doubles to the gap in Triple-A don't fall up there.

"You just have to grind it out and know that it's a little tougher up there. I love that aspect. It just means you have to work that much harder to perfect your game. I don't want to just get up there, I want to stay up there and be there for a while."

The Rays' outfield picture looks crowded heading into the offseason with Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton, Matt Joyce, Sam Fuld, Ben Zobrist, and Justin Ruggiano all in the mix.

"I love the competition," Guyer said. "My whole life, college, everywhere, without that competition it wouldn't be fun, that drives me. Of course I wish the best for those guys. It's also fun to compete for a job. I know [the Rays are] going to put their best players out there. All I can control is the shape I come in. Be ready and try to do the best I can."

At the very least, after training in mixed martial arts, Guyer, in theory, could become the new Jonny Gomes the next time the Rays mix it up with another team. Guyer laughed at the prospect of being the team's resident enforcer.

"I think [Kyle] Farnsworth is still that," he said.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.