Randy Arozarena sure made baseball look easy.
Called up on Aug. 30, the 25-year-old Cuban outfielder went on a tear through the end of the regular season that continued in the postseason and left teammates struggling for adjectives and context.
One night during the American League Division Series against the Yankees, righthander Tyler Glasnow said “Arozarena has to be the best baseball player on Earth right now.’’
The next day, center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said there was no doubt: “He is the best player on the planet. It’s incredible.’’
Arozarena, acquired in January from the Cardinals along with Jose Martinez for a package headlined by promising lefthander Matthew Liberatore, got a late start this season.
He tested positive for COVID-19 and missed all of summer camp and then some, quarantined in a St. Petersburg apartment where he said he cooked himself chicken and rice, did 300 pushups a day and put on 15 pounds of muscle (up to 197), then started workouts at the Port Charlotte alternate site on July 29.
After a couple weeks to get back into baseball shape, he looked so good that camp coordinator Michael Johns was telling his bosses that Arozarena was ready.
Arozarena hit four home runs in his first 16 at-bats and seven total in 23 games, while batting .281/.382/.641 and stealing four bases.
Then he became something of a phenomenon with his start to the postseason, with 12 hits in the Rays’ first five games, four straight with multiple hits and three with three. Also, he homered in three straight games.
“It’s not easy,’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash said during the ALDS. “. . . Give him a lot of credit for finding the consistency with his swing. It’s very simple. All he really wants to know is what’s the guy’s velo.
“I don’t think Randy has too good of a sense of every pitcher that he’s facing. He doesn’t have the reps that a lot of our guys have against the Yankees’ starters or relievers, or anybody in the league for that matter.’’
— The Rays had their usual deep crop of rookies. Others considered for the club’s rookie of the year distinction were lefthander Josh Fleming and relievers Peter Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson.
— Lefthander Shane McClanahan made history in Game 1 of the American League Division Series as the first pitcher ever to make his major league debut in a postseason game. Three position players had done so: Mark Kiger of the 2006 Athletics, Adalberto Mondesi of the 2015 Royals and Alex Kirilloff of the 2020 Twins.
— Fairbanks was chosen the Rays’ outstanding rookie by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in voting announced Sept. 25. Brandon Lowe won the Don Zimmer MVP award and for the second straight year Kevin Kiermaier the “champion” award for the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.