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…

Notes on the Dirtbag-O-Meter…

Yesterday at the plate: Longoria went 1-2 with a home run. He came on in the 8th and pinch hit to lead off the inning, smashing his first spring home run to right-center. In the 9th, he hit a hard ground ball to the right side that was fielded by the second baseman. He did not play in the field.

Quotes:
“[The recent media attention is] a big deal…All the articles have been great. It’s all been positive media. At the same time, it’s time for me to step out of the shadows of being a prospect and start being a player. It’s my goal to make the team out of spring training.”-Evan Longoria.

“we’re going to win some games this year. This isn’t a rebuilding year by any means. This is probably the best team they’ve put together in a long time. I don’t want to be the guy to say we’re going to win such-and-such amount of games, but there’s no reason we can’t win more games than we did last season.” – Evan Longoria.

“Nice pinch-hit at-bat…Then he hit a rocket to the second baseman [in his final at-bat]. Just a nice little flick of the bat, and he got the ball up in the air. Sitting around all day and having a good at-bat, that’s not easy.”- Joe Maddon.

“Whenever they make the decision, I’ll be ready…It’s not like I’m counting the days to wait for the decision. It’s solely up to them and I can’t worry about that.”-Evan Longoria.

“Honestly, I’ve been comfortable since Day 1…Coming into the clubhouse, we have a pretty different look this year. There’s a lot of leadership in the clubhouse and it’s a totally different feel. I’ve been pretty comfortable since I got here.” – Evan Longoria.

Summary: We were really starting to sour on the idea of The Dirtbag being on the opening day roster, but yesterday’s performance and the quotes have us feeling giddy once again. And that Papa Joe seemed even more impressed with the 9th inning ground out says a lot. After some bad at bats last week, Maddon seems impressed that even when Longoria doesn’t get on base, it is a tough out. As for Longoria, he seems to really have his head on his shoulders, and keeps saying exactly what he should be saying to the press. He is extremely confident in his abilities and believes he belongs in the majors, but always stops short of saying that he should be in the majors…In the end, we give the Meter a tick up, but there are still plenty of good reasons to keep Longoria in the minors for 8-10 weeks.

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