1. Rays

With Shields, Upton gone, Rays' Longoria focuses forward

Manager Joe Maddon hugs Fernando Rodney as Joel Peralta, right, approaches during the Rays workout Monday at Tropicana Field.
Published Apr. 2, 2013


vs. Orioles

Today through Thursday

What's new: The Orioles didn't make many changes to a team that snapped its 14-year streak of losing seasons, finishing second in the American League East and reaching the playoffs. They do get back veteran 2B Brian Roberts, who missed a huge chunk of the past three seasons due to concussions and a hip injury but will move from his usual leadoff spot to ninth. Baltimore will rely on its core, including CF Adam Jones, C Matt Wieters and RF Nick Markakis, and is excited for a first full season of impressive rookie 3B Manny Machado. Opening day starter RHP Jason Hammel, an ex-Ray, tops the rotation, and All-Star closer Jim Johnson leads a bullpen that made the Orioles 73-0 when leading after seven innings last year.

Connections: Hammel is an ex-Ray. Injured Rays DH Luke Scott is a former Oriole.

Series history: The Orioles won last season's series 10-8 and lead the overall series 130-128. The Rays are 69-61 at Tropicana Field.

Joe Smith, Times staff writer


More than the stellar talent they have assembled, their promising chances to be contenders, even his own return to health, Rays star Evan Longoria said what he is most excited about going into today's season opener is the camaraderie of the club.

Part of that, he said, is bringing in new players who have quickly become well integrated into their clubhouse culture.

But another, he said, is parting ways with some of their longtime teammates, specifically James Shields and B.J. Upton.

Pausing, searching for words, prefacing his comments that he wasn't speaking negatively, Longoria said the scarring that Shields and Upton endured in the rough Devil Rays days remained a clubhouse issue, and the current team is in "a better mental state" with them gone.

"There was a lot of history with B.J. and Shields and this organization, and I think there were some things that it was tough for them to get beyond," Longoria said. "They were really the only ones that were left in here that were here before the Rays were (renamed) in 2008, when we started to be the team that we are now.

"And I think some of those things kind of stuck around, and as much as you try to instill the new way, some of those things, it was tough to get some of those thoughts out of their head. And so, I think, obviously they were great players, but as far as an over-arching belief in what we try to do here, I think with the new people that we have now, it's a completely new belief in what we're trying to do here."

Longoria said there were no specific incidents involving the two previously longest tenured Rays, just more of a general feeling.

His point seemed to be that while the new Rays organization is known for its tremendous on-field success and, under manager Joe Maddon, as somewhat of a top destination spot for players who are thrilled to be there, that Shields and Upton would, at least occasionally, be stuck in the dark past.

"Obviously they've never said anything negative in the media and I've never really felt it from them, but I think that is kind of the difference in the team this year," Longoria said. "Bottom line, we don't have guys in here anymore that knew how it was. There's no, 'It was … It used to be …' It's all here and now. And what we're doing now. And that's the biggest thing.

"In this game, we always talk about how important it is to play in the now and be in the moment, so to speak. It's tough to do that when you're thinking about the past."

Shields had been in the Rays organization since 2000 and Upton since 2002, and both came to the majors to stay during the 2006 season, which was after the new regime took over but before any success.

Shields was traded this offseason to Kansas City, Upton left as a free agent and signed with Atlanta. (Both had games on Monday and could not be reached for comment.) Reliever J.P. Howell, another holdover, also was allowed to walk and went to the Dodgers. The only player remaining who wore the green Devil Rays uniforms is Ben Zobrist, who isn't one to say anything negative or complain at all.

Maddon said he didn't know of any specific issues with Shields or Upton, though he also said he makes it his practice to only be aware of about "10 percent" of the clubhouse chatter, preferring the players police themselves. He praised Shields and Upton for their contributions on and off the field, and said: "One thing I do know is that they helped us become the Rays."

Longoria offered this analogy: "It's kind of like a long-term girlfriend that you've gone through a lot of tough times with and you've had your good times, but when stuff starts to go bad again then you just only remember the bad times. It's tough to see the bigger picture, it's tough to see what's happening right now."

He said the current group, with the additions of Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson and James Loney, has been great, fueling his confidence the Rays are headed for a successful season.

"We could probably talk about the talents and what we've added for a long time, but I think in the end what really creates a winning environment is a team that comes together early in the year, as early as possible," he said. "When you've got a group of guys that can buy into what you're trying to do here at the big-league level, it makes it a lot easier to go out there and really know what your purpose is, and ours is just to win."

And that atmosphere is different, he said, than it was with Shields and Upton around. "When you've gone through something, times like that that are very tough, you can't be blamed for having those thoughts," he said. "Although they were great players, I just think we're better mentally. We're in a better mental state than we were last year."

Marc Topkin can be reached at


  1. Pat Williams is the former GM of the Orlando Magic basketball team and was involved in unsuccessful efforts to lure an expansion team in the 1990s. JASON DECROW  |  AP
    Longtime sports exec Pat Williams is holding a news conference Wednesday to talk about getting a team.
  2. Tampa Bay Rays' Carlos Pena hits a sixth-inning solo home run off New York Yankees pitcher Sidney Ponson in their baseball game at Yankee Stadium on July 9, 2008. KATHY WILLENS  |  AP
    Just the other day, Pena’s son asked him about being considered for the Hall.
  3. FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2019, file photo, Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter smiles as he speaks during a news conference in Miami. Derek Jeter is among 18 newcomers on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, announced Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, and is likely to be an overwhelming choice to join former New York Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera in Cooperstown after the reliever last year became the first unanimous pick by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    Former Rays Carlos Pena and Heath Bell are also among the 18 up for election for the first time.
  4. Long faces dominate some of the remaining Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans during the fourth quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, November 17, 2019, in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What remaining game will Tampa Bay be favored to win?
  5. The cover of the book Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin Courtesy Jean Fruth
    The 224-page book features a chapter on Tampa, and an essay by Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
  6. Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) delivers a pitch in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 10 in Houston. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Rays Tales: Team execs on Houston’s big problem, a base for winter acquisitions, trophy time and an upcoming owners meeting.
  7. Jameis Winston (3) points to fans after the Bucs' 2017 victory over the New Orleans Saints. Tampa Bay Times
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Previewing Bucs-Saints, justice for the Astros, answers for the Lightning.
  8. FILE - In this July 24, 2019, file photo, Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws to an Oakland Athletics batter during a baseball game in Houston. Verlander has been awarded his second AL Cy Young Award. MICHAEL WYKE  |  AP
    The Mets’ Jacob deGrom wins the NL award for the second straight year.
  9. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash talks with reporters in the dugout the day after clinching a playoff spot. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Former Ray Rocco Baldelli wins top honors after his first season with the Twins, Aaron Boone was second.
  10. Erik Neander, Tampa Bay Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, addresses the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Award came from a vote of team executives; Yankees Cashman was second.