Eierman Working Hard to Leave Florida

After a 16 game stint with the GCL Rays in 2011 and an offseason of hard work, Johnny Eierman had every intention of moving up in the Rays system after extended spring training. That opportunity didn't come though and he finds himself back in the Gulf Coast League. However, Eierman remains confident and optimistic and is now keenly focused on improving his game and getting out of Florida.

"Honestly I was surprised and disappointed," Eierman said. "I was really looking forward to getting to play under the lights and in front of some fans."

At the same time, Eierman remains optimistic and is confident in the organization's plans for him.

"I have faith that the Rays are doing the right thing with me and I'm blessed to be playing baseball for a living and getting closer to my dream."

The toolsy outfielder came out of high school as a shortstop, but he also spent some time at the hot corner before the season began. Despite the switches since being drafted, Eierman feels at home in the outfield.

"I played third base all the way through extended spring training, but it's been an easy transition. I enjoy playing the outfield, it's a lot more laid back out there."

Although he has taken that transition in stride, Eierman also feels that it may have contributed to him starting off the 2012 season as a member of the GCL Rays once again. That, coupled with an underwhelming spring training, probably shows the reasoning behind the decision.

"I didn't have the greatest spring," he said, "and maybe just getting moved to the outfield has something to do with it."

Still, the 19-year-old has done what has been asked of him and eagerly awaits an opportunity to show his worth elsewhere in the organization.

"I'm working hard to get out of Florida and prove that I can play at a higher level."

Eierman is continually looking to improve in all areas as any player would, but there are a few specific aspects of his game that he has focused on bettering since the end of the 2011 season. His plate discipline has been a question mark since he was selected in the 3rd round last year, but he has refined that part of his game.

"I feel like I've improved my pitch selection and cut down the strikeouts," he said, "I am having better quality at bats."

Away from the plate, Eierman has progressed as well and his main point of focus encompassed some of the fundamental aspects of fielding.

"Defensively," he said, "just hitting the cuts and taking good angles, being an athlete out there."

Eierman also benefits from having a father who was signed and drafted by an MLB team just over two decades ago. John Eierman spent four years in the Boston Red Sox organization from 1991-1994, and also coached Johnny in high school. He knows his son's game and has been there to help even after the high school days were over.

"He works with me a lot and he's a big part of my offseason," Johnny said. "We mostly hit, but he's a smart guy who knows and loves the game, and loves working with me and getting me better. Mostly what he has helped me with is calming down my movement at the plate and pitch selection."

It's still very early, but it looks like things are headed in the right direction for Eierman. He has appeared in five games so far in 2012, and is currently sporting a line of .375/.500/.563 with three stolen bases to go along with it. He is confident in his approach at the plate and currently has something to show for all the hard work he has put in.

"I'd say it has paid off so far and a main reason is just being focused every at bat, being ready for my pitch and doing something with it, not fouling it off or missing it or taking it. Before, I would try to do too much with pitches and try and hit them a mile. Now, I'm just trying to barrel it up and hit it where it's pitched."

Johnny Eierman has the tools to become a very valuable player for the Rays down the road, and all signs point to him succeeding in his current role. To this point, Eierman has demonstrated through both his attitude and his play that if he's not ready to take the next step, he's certainly knocking on the door.

Brad Lymburner is the GCL Rays beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @_BradL.


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