Health breeds success for Souza
ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. had one goal coming into this season, and that was to stay healthy.
Souza, who missed 52 games in 2015 and 42 last season because of injuries, wanted to see what he could accomplished in those extra 40 or 50 games. The answer: a career year.
That year earned him the Don Zimmer Award as the team MVP as voted on by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Souza, who played in his 147th game Friday, set career highs this season in games, home runs (30), hits (125), doubles (21), RBIs (78), walks (80), stolen bases (16) and runs (77). He also set a career high with 177 strikeouts.
If goal No. 1 was health, goal No. 2 was patience at the plate.
“I wanted to pick my spots a lot better,” he said. “I think the last couple of years I got way too aggressive and was swinging to swing. I think I was told if you don’t swing three times, you don’t have a good chance of getting a hit, so that’s what I was doing. This year I came in and zoned in on a spot, doing a lot more homework on pitchers, picking pitches to look at, sitting on pitches, waiting them out and being disciplined and when I got them not trying to do too much with them.”
Manager Kevin Cash said Souza was the Rays’ most consistent player for much of the season.
“That amount of games when he impacts us offensively, scoring a run, driving in a run, we’re a really good team,” Cash said. “He’s right in the middle of a lot of those things.”
Rays rightfielder and team MVP Steven Souza Jr. has set several career bests this season, including home runs (30), RBIs (78), walks (80) and stolen bases (16).