Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Longoria answers questions with bounceback season

BALTIMORE

As Evan Longoria posted 2014-15 seasons of declining production before turning 30, people sitting in the stands, watching from the press box and working for other teams wondered if his best years were behind him.

The Rays' veteran third baseman was aware of the dialogue, and the doubts. He was more concerned about a different perspective.

"At the end of every year when the numbers don't look like they have in the past, there are always questions of can you repeat it, are you still the player you were," Longoria said.

"I've never been one to pay attention to what other people say. I don't read a lot into what people write or listen to what people say.

"But there are always voices in your own head, and to be able to answer those questions to yourself is the most important thing."

Longoria has answered them and then some, posting career highs with 35 homers and 311 total bases, with a chance to surpass his previous bests in hits (six shy of 169) and extra-base hits (three shy of 77). He is six RBIs from reaching 100 for the third time.

Given that Longoria's prior homer high came in 2009, that he hadn't driven in more than 91 runs since 2011 and that he turned 30 at the end of last season, there has been much to be impressed with.

For Longoria, it has been the consistency of quality at-bats.

"It's felt like even when I was making outs, they were good at-bats," he said. "I haven't gone long stretches where it's been a bunch of noncompetitive at-bats in a row. I've never really given the opposing pitcher or teams an opportunity to say this guy is a free out right now. I feel like I've competed every at-bat and not given too many of them away."

So what has impressed others watching the most? Here is a sampling:

Opposing manager

Baltimore's Buck Showalter: "If I was a Tampa Bay fan, I'd be real proud of him. This guy posts up every day and plays with intensity. There's nothing beneath him, if that makes any sense. He's a teammate, he's a contributor, and he never takes anything offense-to-defense, defense-to-offense. Just a smart baserunner. … He positions himself real well. He never has a noncompetitive day. That's hard to do. He's been through some challenges, and I really respect the way he goes about his business. They're lucky to have him."

Understudy

Rays rookie INF Richie Shaffer: "Without being annoying, I've tried to be Longo's shadow every time I come up just because he's the kind of guy I aspire to be. He does things the right way every single day. He works his butt off. He plays the game the right way. He's a great leader in terms of that consistent presence. He commands the respect of the whole clubhouse. …

"A year like this has been a long time coming for him. He's one of the most talented players in the league, and I know that he's been catching flak the past couple years, for whatever reason. Also, he's an absolute warrior. He plays through everything, and that's really impressive to watch."

New hitting coach

Chad Mottola: "The way he gets the barrel to the ball — his hands are special. He's changed a little bit in his setup this year, shortened things up. It's been fun to watch. And he leads by example."

Teammates

1B/SS Brad Miller: "It's crazy because he obviously has set the bar high to begin with, so to raise his own level of play is awesome. He's so consistent. He's everything you want in a cornerstone player. The way he comes to the park — he's the first one here, he's in his routine, he's getting ready, he's preparing. So I don't think it's coincidence he goes out and performs well just by how well he prepares. … He honestly is everything I was expecting. He seems like he's perfect and he pretty much is."

2B Logan Forsythe: "His consistent leadership. … He always finds a way to get out there and play every day — I've seen him hurt, I've seen him sick. … He did something this year mechanically with his swing where last year he was kind of fighting in between, and he still had a great year. But the career year he is having this year, he made an adjustment at the plate and he actually stuck with it. Watching him do that, it's good for younger guys to look at, that what you're doing doesn't always work. And he's a prime example. He changed his stance, his positioning of his hands and his feet, the width of his stance. And it's paid off. He's shown sometimes you have to make an adjustment in this game, and it's paid off big."

Former opponent

Former White Sox, now Rays INF Alexei Ramirez, via interpreter: "I played against him as a competitor for eight years; in the short time that I've been here I've been able to see that he's a good teammate, he's in a certain class of player. … What stands out to me is just the way he prepares for the game — what he does in here, when he shows up, the things he does on the field. … He really goes out of his way to be a good teammate."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Comments
Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There were a lot of reasons the Rays didn’t start the process of trading some of their bigger-name, higher-paid players at last week’s winter meetings.Most obvious was them not finding the just-right deal to move closer Alex Colome...
Updated: 2 hours ago
No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Here’s the one thing we definitely know:Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings and back across I-4 Thursday without making deals to trade any of their bigger-name, higher-paid players. Not closer Alex Colome, not third...
Published: 12/14/17
Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

UPDATE, 4:02: It doesn't sound like the Rays and Cardinals will be making a deal today, Derrick Goold writing for the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Cardinals execs "leave the Walt Disney Dolphin resort with good feel for what Tampa Bay would be willin...
Published: 12/14/17
Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

LAKE BUENA VISTA — LHP Jonny Venters got as far as Triple A in September. Now the former All-Star is positioned to make it all the way back to the majors for the first time since 2012, re-signing with the Rays and headlining Thursday’s announcement o...
Published: 12/14/17
Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Inspiring veteran LHP Jonny Venters and intriguing prospect 1B/OF Joe McCarthy are among 13 players invited to major-league spring training camp with the Rays.Others coming as a result of signing minor-league contracts with invites are: RHP R.J. Alan...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

The Rays lost RHP Burch Smith in Thursday's Rule 5 draft but were happy to see him get an opportunity in Kansas City.They also were pleased to hang on to C Nick Ciuffo, who was left exposed but not selected.Smith, 27, was acquired from the Padres as ...
Published: 12/14/17
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

UPDATE, 11:09: RHP Steve Cishek, who was a very effective addition to the Rays pen last season, has reunited with pitching coach Jim Hickey, agreeing to a deal with the Cubs.UPDATE, 10:40: Like most teams, Rays officials are heading out of the meetin...
Published: 12/14/17
Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

As part of its deal to buy a massive package of 21st Century Fox assets, Disney will acquire Fox Sports Regional Networks, which control the local cable rights to a slew of professional teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning.Assu...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Without getting into specifics – especially the who and the where – Rays officials are for the first time talking optimistically about making a trade before the winter meetings end Thursday.Speaking at around 5:15, senior VP Chaim Bloom s...
Published: 12/13/17

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Published: 12/13/17