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: Evan Longoria went 0-3, playing the first 6 innings. In the second inning, he grounded out to shortstop leading off the inning. In the fourth he struck out swinging. In the seventh he popped out to the first baseman in foul territory for the first out. In the field, he handled two ground balls and one pop up.
Summary: We expect that we will start seeing a shift in playing time in the next few days. With a little over two weeks remaining before the season starts that starting third baseman for the Rays will either be The Dirtbag who will be making his major league debut or Willy Aybar who missed all of 2007. Whomever the Rays decide to be the thirdbaseman, Joe Maddon will want that person to be playing the first 5 innings on most days against the other team’s A-team in preparation for the regular season. As it stands right now, both players have seen almost equal playing time. Longoria has recently pulled ahead of Aybar in terms of playing time logged at third base, 44 innings to 38. Defensively, Longoria has a much stronger range factor, 2.66 compared to 1.42. Offensively, both have been strong. Longoria is 7-22 (.318) with 5 walks (.464) and 2 strike outs. Aybar is 6-21 (.286) with 4 walks (.414) and 4 strike outs…If the team really wanted The Dirtbag to start the season in the minors they probably should have just stuck to their original plan and made that announcement prior to the spring, because at this point…the stats, the defense, the way he has handled himself in the press and on the field, and from what we have heard from coaches and teammates…the kid sure sounds ready to us.