-- When San Diego outfielder Wil Myers showed up for a rehab assignment with the Lake Elsinore Storm in the Class A California League this week, it was with a two-pronged personal agenda: He's intent on salvaging something from a trying 2015 season, while putting it behind him as quickly and emphatically as possible.
It's been a disappointing summer for the Padres, who were a trendy spring training postseason pick after general manager A.J. Preller's frenzied winter trade and free-agent spree. The Padres were 32-33 when they fired manager Bud Black in June, and they're 32-35 under his interim replacement, Pat Murphy. Any semblance of buzz surrounding the team faded months ago, and the Padres are playing out the string in a publicity vacuum with some conspicuous holes in their lineup.
No one on the roster has a greater desire to move on from 2015 than Myers, who arrived from Tampa Bay by trade in December and began the season as San Diego's center fielder and leadoff hitter. He got off to an encouraging start -- at the plate, anyway -- with a .277 batting average and .787 OPS in 148 at-bats. But he has appeared in only 35 games this season after wrist injuries limited him to 87 games last year.
Myers suffered a stress fracture in his right wrist in a collision with Tampa Bay teammate Desmond Jennings in 2014 and underwent surgery in June to remove a bone spur in his left wrist. He's been tagged with the label of "injury-prone" as a result, and he makes little effort to conceal his displeasure with the term.
"It's the worst," Myers said. "I see it on Twitter and I hear it all the time. Everybody is like, 'He's too injury-prone,' but it's not like I have a hamstring injury where every time I run, I'm cautious about it. I had a bone spur taken out, and once this heals I won't have to deal with this injury anymore.
"I hear people say, 'Just suck it up and go play.' Well, dude, I can't. I physically can't. It's that painful, where I can't be myself out there. But now it's starting to feel a little better. We have 20, 25 games left that I'll be back for, and I have to grind through it and get as healthy as I can in the offseason."
Myers, who turns 25 in December, is in a fraternity with Texas' Jurickson Profar, the Cubs' Javier Baez and other young players who've discovered the fickle nature of prospect worship. The bandwagon is full until injuries or other deficiencies become apparent and the early hype begins to fade. Even Bryce Harper encountered some doubters after injuries to his thumb and knee put a significant crimp in his numbers in 2014. Harper is back to full health this season and has responded with an MVP-worthy season in Washington at age 22.
If it comes as any consolation to Myers, a lot of major league talent evaluators have faith that he'll recover and eventually realize his potential as an impact bat. One National League scout compares him to Washington outfielder Jayson Werth, a former first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles who was dogged by wrist injuries early in his career and didn't blossom as a position player in Philadelphia until age 28.
"The industry realizes he's a special talent," Padres bench coach Dave Roberts said of Myers. "All players look to have an edge, and for him to hear that he's injury-prone or people gave up on him, it's kind of fueled his fire. All that aside, he's going to be a good major league player for a long time."
Myers has a likable, energetic cockiness about him, along with a restlessness that makes it impossible for him to sit still when he's on the disabled list. So it was a relief for him and the Padres when they were finally able to ship him out on a rehab assignment Tuesday. He's scheduled to play in Lake Elsinore through Thursday night and expects to rejoin the big club next week after the minor league season ends.
One pressing question is: Where will he play? Myers broke in as a catcher with the Kansas City organization before shifting to the outfield in his third professional season. The Padres moved him to center field and he graded out poorly in the new-age defensive metrics, logging a minus-14 defensive runs saved according to Baseball Info Solutions' calculations.
The Padres are auditioning 2012 first-round pick Travis Jankowski in center field down the stretch and hoping he can stake a claim to the job in 2016. Myers could move to left field next season when Justin Upton departs through free agency. Or he could transition to first base, where the Padres might be in the mood for an upgrade after watching Yonder Alonso hit five home runs and slug .381 in his first 103 games. In five starts at first base with San Diego this season, Myers has found a comfort zone around the bag and impressed the Padres with his soft hands and nimble feet.
"I think he could be a Gold Glove first baseman," an NL scout said. "He's got a good arm and he's so athletic. He can really pick it."
For Myers, it's less a question of putting up big numbers upon his return to Petco Park than feeling comfortable in the batter's box. Three weeks of pain-free at-bats will clear his head and eliminate any apprehensions he might have when he dives into his offseason workout program back home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"The last two years have been tough," Myers said. "It's been tough mentally. But I've never had a bad year in professional baseball when I've been healthy all year. If I can come out and play 162 games at 100 percent, I know I can help a team out a lot."
When Myers hit 37 homers in the minors in 2012, numerous scouts took note of his power and 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame and slapped him with a "budding Dale Murphy" label. Three years and lots of growing pains later, that comparison seems even more unfair and premature. It's unreasonable to expect Myers to appear in every game and contend for an MVP award. If he can play 140-150 games and do a passable impression of the old Wil Myers, that should be more than good enough for the Padres.