Longoria to let his work do talking
Third baseman not concerned about Opening Day speculation
ST. PETERSBURG -- All eyes are on Evan Longoria.
Will the Rays' top prospect be their starting third baseman on Opening Day? Or will the club opt to have him season further at Triple-A Durham before his coronation?
Where Rays fans are concerned, looking for the answers to these questions fueled an offseason's worth of speculation. Longoria pays no mind to the blog postings and message boards. Of course, there is no need for him to do so thanks to his mother, Ellie.
"The majority of the stuff I hear is from my mom," Longoria said. "I don't really read the Web site too much. She pretty much reads everything from the Web site to the blog, so I hear it all.
"I try to kind of stay away from that -- clear my mind from that stuff. The speculation is what it is. I've got to go out and perform."
Wednesday morning, the Rays held their first full-squad workout. Longoria could be seen at the hot corner surrounded by the rest of the starting infield -- with Eric Hinske joining him at third -- while coaches Tom Foley, Gary Gaetti, Tim Bogar and Jim Hoff peppered staccato grounders at the group. In short, Longoria looked like he belonged.
"He handles himself extremely well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Longoria knows one thing about the decision regarding whether he is the Opening Day third baseman, and that is the fact there are many things in baseball a player cannot control.
"So I just have to do what I know how to do and keep my cool," Longoria said. "I think that's the main thing. You've read it in the papers, not only what I do on the field, but my demeanor [and] how I fit in here. I think that's going to be important that I show them I'm mentally, as well as physically, ready."
Longoria had a busy 2007, when he played in 171 games combined with Double-A Montgomery (105 games), Triple-A Durham (31 regular season and eight postseason), Arizona Fall League (12) and Team USA. All told, the 22-year old hit .298 with 42 doubles, 33 home runs and 115 RBIs.
In other words, Longoria had little time to think about whether he will be the Rays' third baseman when they take the field at Camden Yards on March 31.
"My offseason was short-lived," Longoria said. "I'm glad to be back and happy to be here. But it doesn't feel like it's been that long since I've been on the field. But it's exciting; I'm glad to be here."
At the end of the 2007 season, Maddon said the Rays would make a determination on Longoria prior to Spring Training. That sentiment has since changed to where Longoria must compete for a job this spring. Longoria never let himself get caught up in what may or may not happen.
"I didn't really get word from the front office themselves before that article came out [at the end of the 2007 season]," Longoria said. "So I kind of read it like [members of the media] read it. We have some one-on-one meetings coming up that I'm sure they'll explain more to me. I know as much as [members of the media] know as far as going into this whole thing and what's going on. I'm just going to go out and work hard and see what happens."
Ironically, one of the criteria by which the Rays would have liked to evaluate Longoria hasn't occurred, and that's judging how he deals with struggling.
"I guess that's a good thing," Longoria said. "But failure is a part of the game. It's going to happen sometime. I just have to show them I know how to deal with it."
Truth be known, Longoria has struggled.
"I did struggle for a little bit [last season at Triple-A]," Longoria said. "They were finding ways to get me out. It's a constant adjustment. It was a good learning experience for me."
A learning experience from which Longoria gained the confidence that he can play in the Major Leagues.
"I think Triple-A is really where you have to play as a young player to really realize what the big leagues is going to be like," Longoria said. "Obviously, the big leagues is still a step above Triple-A, but there's a lot of big league rehab guys, big league fallback guys. There are a lot of guys who have big league talent in Triple-A, and you get a sense of what kind of craftiness there is with those older guys.
"It wasn't just, 'Here's my 96 mph fastball, hit it.' I mean there's a lot of guys that have that who were able to pitch, and that's what made it a lot tougher."
The Major Leagues will take Longoria to an even higher level. Watching him go about his business, it's hard to think he's not ready for the challenge.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.