Health breeds suc­cess for Souza

Tampa Bay Times - - Rays Report - BY ROGER MOONEY Times Staff Writer

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.”

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

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).

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