We call him The Dirtbag because of how he plays and because he played college ball at Long Beach State whose baseball team has the coolest mascot in sports…The Dirtbags.
The biggest question mark for the Tampa Bay Rays in Spring Training is whether or not Evan Longoria will be named the opening day third baseman. Manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly stated that the decision will be based less on his stats, and more on how the 22-year old handles himself on a day-to-day basis and how well The Dirtbag adjusts to everyday life as a major leaguer. From now until the Rays announce a decision on Longoria’s fate, we will track The Dirtbag’s progress through his numbers, our own observations and quotes from Maddon and Andrew Friedman…
Yesterday at the plate: Played all 9 innings of one split-squad game. Went 1-3 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored. In the second he popped out to second base. He walked to leadoff the 5th. In the 6th he hit a line drive to left field for a single. He led off the 8th with another walk. Later in the inning he lined out to the center fielder to end the inning. He handled his both groundballs he faced cleanly forcing a runner at second to end the seventh and getting another hitter in the 8th. He also caught a pop up.
Summary: Willy Aybar played all 9 innings in the other spit-squad action, going 1-4 with a double and a strike out. He also committed his second error of the spring trying to start a double play. If the team had already made up their mind on Longoria to go to the minors, we would be seeing a shift in playing time towards Aybar and that has not been the case. If it is just Longoria OR Aybar, Longoria is the obvious choice as he has clearly outplayed Aybar. But it is still a case of whether or not he is ready. But as we get closer to opening day and Longoria is still receiving considerable playing time and he continues to play well both at the plate and in the field, I have to think that his chances are growing.