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 started at third going 2-5 with an RBI. Longoria flied out to center in the first and to left in the third. In the sixth, Longoria hit a two-out groundball single to the opposite field. He hit another opposite field groundball single in the next inning. He later stole second. In the ninth he grounded out to shortstop. In the field, Longoria handled his only chance, a pop up.

Quotes: none reported

Summary: (As per yesterday’s comments, Thanks Robert) Joe Maddon expressed some concerns about some of The Dirtbag’s at bats, noting that at times he has looked ‘not so good’. This is the first time that Maddon has made statements about Longoria’s readiness for the major leagues and opens the door to start the season in Durham. On the other hand Longoria added two more hits yesterday and is 6-16 (.375) with 4 walks (.500 OBP) and has yet to make an error at third. Willy Aybar is 4-17 (.235) with 4 walks (.391 OBP) with 1 error. After logging 9 innings yesterday, Longoria has actually seen more PT at third (32 inn) compared to Aybar (29 inn.)…We have no doubt that Longoria has looked bad a few times this spring, but what batter doesn’t have a few bad at bats in the spring? He is still hitting .375 and has been on base half the time. If that was not the case, Maddon’s comments alone might bring the Meter down to 20-30%. Can the team really ignore how well Longoria is playing? It is starting to look that way.

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9 Comments

  1. JacksonTSmith says:

    I think you have a situation here where what we are hearing from the Rays, as far as changing the culture and wanting to win goes, and what we are seeing still feels like the Devil Rays of old. Longoria is playing very well. He couldn't have done much better as far as his stats go. I just think that Maddon's had the plan to start him in Duram all along. The same can be said for Jeff Niemann. He's looked pretty good, and is a better prospect than Jason Hammel ever was. Giving up 9 runs in 3 innings is something that happened to the DEVIL Rays. The Rays need to keep Niemann and Longoria up, and let them gel into a winning team with the rest of the players.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    How about Ben Zobrist's injury? Does any PT that Aybar gets at SS backing up Bartlett + an open infield roster spot move the needle whatsoever for Longoria?

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Longoria hadan error yesterday, if it wasnt an error it should of been, it let in 2 runs.

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  4. Tommy R says:

    Maddon said even if Longoria hit .500 he might not make the team...it sure looks that way

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  5. The Professor says:

    I think/hope that was Hammel's last straw. He has over 25 starts at the big league level and has never given any indication that he is a big league starting pitcher.

    AS far BenZo's injury. The team has always maintained that the needs of the prospect outweigh the short-term needs of the team. I take that to mean that Longoria's decision will not be influenced by Zobrist.

    he was not charged with an error. and I didnt notice anything in the play-by-play recap. can anybody shed any light on this play? exactly what happened?

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  6. JacksonTSmith says:

    Regardless of one play yesterday, Longoria has done nothing to prove that he is not ready for the majors. I will take a few errors over Guzman who hasn't proven anything at 3rd base, or Aybar who can't seem to keep himself out trouble with the law. One error in a spring training game shouldn't be the deciding factor when he has been on base pretty much 50% of the time he gets to the plate.

    I am much more inclined to buy tickets to opening day in St. Pete if we've got the Dirtbag at the hot corner. I want to watch him play.

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  7. Robert Rittner says:

    The Longoria issue is another example of a non-issue. Nobody is going to block him, and it is simply a matter of whether he plays in April or June. Spring stats have nothing to do with it (see Joe Sheehan's chat today on the significance of spring stats. clue: none!).

    If he plays starting in June we are all pretty much guaranteed to see him for an extra year at least, and an extra prime year at that. Seems a reasonable trade-off. If he is in TB in April, great. We see an extra month or two of him this year. It just shouldn't matter to fans, and we need to trust management to make their decision based their evaluation of many factors, some relevant to Longoria's development and some relevant to the team's needs. There is no obviously right answer.

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  8. The Professor says:

    i completely agree with everything you are saying RR. 3 and 6 years from now we will have a greater appreciation and think it was silly that we were debating 8-10 weeks.

    but to play devil's advocate...it would take a lot for the Rays to make the playoffs this year, BUT there is at least some sense that if things broke right, they could be in it late in the year. If Longoria is the best option, might he be the difference in 2-3 wins over two months? I dont know that answer, but if he is, those 2-3 wins could be a HUGE difference in July and August.

    Personally my brain wants what is best for Longoria AND the team. and that probably means 2 months in Durham, but my heart is a little more impatient as is that of most fans and they want him sooner rather than later. I a of the belief that there is no detriment to Longoria to starting him in the big leagues. He is such a good player that I dont see any negative backlash from being "rushed". He will be fine.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    from drays bay:
    " Longoria let a ball get by him that could have prevented 2 runs with 2 outs and bases loaded. I am not sure if it was scored a error, but it was right off his glove and he had a decent chance to make the play."

    I saw the play, he should of had it, but these things happen.

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