Longoria excited about upgrades Rays make on offense
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) Evan Longoria is eager to do his part to help the revamped Tampa Bay Rays realize their potential.
The star third baseman said Tuesday he welcomes the acquisition of Corey Dickerson, Steve Pearce, Logan Morrison and others being counted on to make the team more formidable offensively.
He also enters spring training hoping to put less pressure on himself at plate in tough times and share responsibility as a leader on and off the field.
''I feel like my role now is I don't have to do as much,'' Longoria said, noting All-Star Chris Archer set a tone for camp this week by calling out two minor league prospects for not getting to the clubhouse as early as he felt they should for the first workout for pitchers and catchers.
''I was making fun of him,'' Longoria added. ''But that's good for me because I don't feel that weight or that responsibility anymore.''
The Rays are coming off an 80-82 finish that left them out of the playoffs for the second straight year. The top priority this winter was to bolster an offense that was next to last in the AL in runs scored.
Dickerson, Pearce, Morrison, Hank Conger and Brad Miller were brought in to enhance the lineup around Longoria, who hit .270 with 21 homers and 73 RBIs in 160 games last season.
It was the fewest homers and RBI's the three-time All-Star has had during a full season in his career.
''In this job, you're always trying to reduce stress, reduce pressure, figure out a way to get beyond it,'' Longoria said.
''It's probably shocking for people to hear that we're still nervous or anxious or feel the pressure that maybe a high school or college kid might feel in their first game. The reality is that it never goes away,'' he added. ''It's always something that's there.''
The 30-year-old, who appeared in a major league-leading 452 games over the past three seasons, said trying to do too much at the plate game after game eventually takes its toll on a player.
''Nobody wants to feel that pressure every day. I felt it a lot last year, the way I was hard on myself. I know it's not the best thing for you mentally,'' Longoria said. ''End of the season ... you're tired. And sometimes, day to day, it's not as enjoyable as it can be being here because you're so mentally drained.''
Second-year manager Kevin Cash said if Longoria felt overburdened last season, he didn't notice.
''Not to put words in his mouth, but where he was going is we've added some thump in the lineup that we're excited to see, and it should be more balanced,'' Cash said. ''I know there were times last year where Longo probably felt he had to get it done. ... But that's why he's such a great player. He's very critical of himself. We could sign up for the year he just had, and then add the (offseason acquisitions), and I think we'd be really good.''
The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year's best season statistically was 2009, when he hit .281 with 33 homers and 113 RBIs. He had 22 homers and 104 RBIs in 2010, the last time he was an All-Star.
Longoria allowed that the numbers he's compiled over the past five seasons might suggest he's no longer as good as he was early in his career. He's confident, though, that he's still capable of helping the Rays re-emerge as playoff contenders.
''That's really all that matters,'' he said.