Johnny Field Just Keeps Getting The Job Done
The Rays have a stack of top-shelf position prospects at Triple-A Durham, topped by shortstop Willy Adames, first baseman Jake Bauers and third baseman Christian Arroyo.
But the prospect who made the strongest bid to make the Opening Day roster, and the first one to get called up, was 26-year-old outfielder Johnny Field.
Field has been that guy pretty much his entire career, ever since the Rays signed him for $247,500 as a fifth-round pick out of Arizona in 2013. He was never given much attention or prospect status. He just always got the job done.
Field won the Rays' minor league player of the year award in 2014, when he played at two Class A levels. He impressed at Double-A Montgomery In 2016 to earn a quick promotion to Triple-A. He had a solid overall season at Durham in 2017, batting .261/.303/.425 in 111 games as the Bulls' primary center fielder.
All that got Field was a trip to Durham for a third straight season, while the Rays looked outside the organization for another righthanded-hitting outfielder. They found one when they traded for the Indians' Rob Refsnyder, who was Field’s college teammate at Arizona.
That, in a way, made Field's promotion sweeter.
"He’s kind of been through the grind," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Johnny's had a pretty consistent track record in Durham. It's his time to come up here and have an opportunity to play, and make the most of it."
Field was originally slated for part-time duty with the Rays, but that changed when Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier tore a ligament in his right thumb and will miss three months. Mallex Smith slid over to center, while Field saw ample time on the corners.
"A lot of guys are getting big opportunities right now," Field said. "I’m trying to seize it and go out and make the most of it right now."
Field’s promotion was also a reward for the Rays' scouting and player development departments, which haven't had much success getting drafted players of much consequence to the majors.
"When all of the time invested, in Johnny's case dating back to his high school days, produces a big league player for our club, it is incredibly rewarding for the amateur scouting staff as a whole and the individuals most directly involved," scouting director Rob Metzler told the Tampa Bay Times.
"Having said that, a ton of credit goes to our player development team. And even more so to Johnny himself, who competed and improved his game on every rung of the minor league ladder."
Joe Ryan Learns Cutter At Chance Meeting
Ryan learned a new cutter grip while playing catch with a Rays big leaguer who was rehabbing in the Florida State League.
>> Righthander Ryan Weber joined a short list of St. Petersburg natives to play for the Rays with his mid-April callup. Righty Doug Waechter and first baseman Casey Kotchman are the other two. Weber didn’t get to play in, or even be part of, a game at Tropicana Field, because he was called up and designated for assignment while the Rays were on the road. He remained with the organization after clearing waivers and accepting an outright assignment to Durham.
>> As part of their "bullpen day” shuffling, the Rays called up three different relievers in the first two and a half weeks of the season, using rigthhanders Chih-Wei Hu, Hunter Wood and Weber.