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: Started at third. In the second he struck out looking with the bases empty. In the 4th, he flied out to center to end the inning. In the 7th he singled sharply to center ending an 0-8 skid “(including rainout). He finished 1-3. In the field he handled a pop up for his only fielding chance…
“I can’t really point to one event because it’s more of a daily thing…It’s like, ‘He got to that ball – wow’ or ‘How did he hit that?’ or ‘How did he hit that solidly?’ Just small things you kind of see over the course of a season or a few weeks or a month and think, ‘This guy’s got a little something extra, he’s got something special.’ You definitely pick that up with him.”-Jeff Niemann
“He’s kind of got that swagger,”-B.J. Upton.
“In my opinion – and I’ve heard it from other guys – it’s the way you go about your business, the way you prepare for the games…That’s kind of what separates guys at this level. There’s a lot of guys in this room that are at the same talent level, physically. I just try to have that extra drive and that extra desire to want to do something better. I think that’s what takes guys to that next level.”- Evan Longoria.
“Every time he comes to the field and he’s on the field, you watch…He’s a game-changing player.”-Reid Brignac.
Summary: All of those quotes come from Marc Lancaster’s piece on Longoria this morning. While Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman may not be convinced that The Dirtbag is ready, it sure sounds like everybody else is…Including the Rays rainout, Longoria has 16 plate appearances and Willy Aybar has 17, while Longoria has now actually logged more innings at third base in the field (27 to 24)…The next couple of days could be important for Longoria as we approach the halfway point. With only 1 hit in his last 5 games, how The Dirtbag responds to this ‘mini-slump’ could go a long way to sealing his fate…For now we are keeping the Dirtbag-O-Meter at slightly above 50%. His bat has been good. His glove has been great. His poise has been outstanding. And he is the best thirdbaseman in camp.