Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria wins franchise's first player of the month award

Evan Longoria, the majors’ RBI leader, is the first Rays player to win the AL player of the month award.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Evan Longoria, the majors’ RBI leader, is the first Rays player to win the AL player of the month award.

ST. PETERSBURG — The announcement came just before the game that 3B Evan Longoria had been named American League player of the month for April, the first Ray in their 12 seasons to win the monthly award.

Then the second-year sensation went out and worked on his bid for the May award, knocking in three more runs to extend his major-league-leading total to 34.

And he did it without even hitting the ball hard, a two-run ground ball single in the seventh following a sixth-inning blooper that dropped into rightfield for a double that scored the tying run.

"You've got to take 'em any way you can," Longoria said, laughing. "I told (Baltimore's) Brian Roberts at second base that's just good, clean living."

It's something, because Longoria has been on a roll. The April honor — for hitting .369 with six homers and 24 RBIs in 21 games — wasn't much of a surprise as he'd won two of the first four player of the week awards.

Longoria, who gets a 52-inch Sharp Aquos high-def TV and a trophy, said it was "very special" to be so honored, and he is determined to not let it go to his head.

"I constantly try to humble myself; if you don't, I'm sure the game is going to find a way to humble you," said Longoria, at 23 the youngest player on the team. "I've got to come to the ballpark and do the same things and treat everybody the same and keep things as simple and as plain as possible."

RUNNING HARD: LF Carl Crawford was on the run again, stealing second in the first (and coming around to score on two errors) to extend his season-opening streak to 19, and 21 going back to last season.

Manager Joe Maddon compared him to "being in a zone" like a basketball guard or football quarterback. Crawford said it's a product of running at the right time, a combination of good jumps and a slightly larger lead he's taking this season.

"I'm just trying to make sure I'm going when I feel there's a high chance I'll be safe," he said. "I don't want to just take off. I'm trying to get good jumps and make sure everything is right before I take off."

Crawford's current career success rate of 83.38 percent (321/385) is tops among active players and third all time.

ADJUSTING WELL: Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey didn't like what RHP Matt Garza was doing in the early innings, "getting too cute" with his off-speed pitches.

After a third-inning conversation and adjustment, they loved what he did the rest of the way, throwing his four-seam fastball more often and more aggressively. "I like when he's physical," Maddon said.

Garza ended up allowing only four hits (two home runs) while working into the ninth.

"It was just locating it better and not trying to be too tricky out there," Garza said.

LOOKING DIFFERENT: Maddon is a traditionalist when it comes to ballparks and a sentimentalist when it comes to Yankee Stadium, where his father took him to see his first big-league game. So he's not all that excited about seeing the new Bronx palace: "It's wonderful I'm sure from a financial perspective, but from an aesthetic perspective I would much prefer the old place."

REHAB REPORT: RHP Jason Isringhausen (September elbow surgery) allowed two hits but no runs in a rehab inning for Triple-A Durham. … C Shawn Riggans (right shoulder tendinitis) was 1-for-2 and played three innings in his first rehab game for Double-A Montgomery.

MISCELLANY: Troy Percival got one out for his 356th save, and Maddon said he will try to use him in shorter situations like that. … Quality assurance coach Todd Greene will miss at least the New York games to attend to the birth of his fourth child. … OF Gabe Gross rejoined the team, and brought cigars, after the Sunday birth of his first child. … The new Yankee Stadium is the 32th stadium the Rays have visited; they are 8-23 in debut games. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson, one of the Rays' top pitching prospects, left Tuesday's start after two innings (30 pitches) with a muscle problem in his shoulder that is not believed to be serious.

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria wins franchise's first player of the month award 05/05/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 6:43am]

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