PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) Evan Longoria trusts the Tampa Bay Rays to get it right, so he has no complaints about the club’s winter makeover.
Not that the star third baseman was happy to see the franchise lose manager Joe Maddon and front office executive Andrew Friedman within a 10-day span of October, then watch their successors spend much of the next three months revamping the roster through a series of trades and free agent signings that have filled the clubhouse with new faces.
”It’s just really about all the confidence that I have in their ability to put together a good team and just see the bigger picture,” the three-time AL All-Star said.
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”Everybody who’s here is looking forward to a new year, just a fresh start and something that’s different,” Longoria added. ”Sometimes things are needed and necessary to kind of keep you on track.”
The Rays’ career leader in home runs and RBIs stressed that that’s no knock on Maddon, who guided the Rays to four playoffs berths over a six-year span before finishing with Tampa Bay’s first losing record since 2007 last season.
The most successful manager in team history opted out of the final year of his contract before signing with the Chicago Cubs. The Rays hired Kevin Cash, who has no previous managerial experience, to succeed the popular Maddon.
”Obviously, he did so many great things for the franchise, and so many great things for me as a player,” Longoria said. ”But I guess all good things come to an end at some point. I think we’re really looking forward to getting to know Kevin as a manager and as a guy.”
Friedman, who put together the rosters Maddon thrived with, left for a similar position with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Matt Silverman, who joined a then-struggling Tampa Bay organization at the same time as Friedman , has taken over as president of baseball operations.
Longoria said he believes in Silverman’s ability to keep the franchise moving forward.
Five starters from a year ago, including three-time All-Star Ben Zobrist and 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, were traded this offseason. Infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, outfield prospect Steven Souza, catcher Rene Rivera, designated hitter John Jaso and pitchers Kevin Jepsen, Ernesto Frieri and Burch Smith are among the new arrivals.
”It goes back to the track record of those guys from the beginning,” Longoria said, alluding to the success of the front office since principal owner Stuart Sternberg took control of the team. ”Pretty much all of the moves they’ve made have been great for our organization and worked out. I had to put my faith in that.”
The face of the franchise thinks the Rays, who have one of the best pitching rotations in the AL, have a chance to be better than a lot of people suspect.
And he’s ready to lead, vowing to ”play better” after hitting .253 and leading Tampa Bay with 22 homers and 91 RBIs while playing in all 162 games for the first time last season.
What he hopes will be a ”bounce-back” campaign actually began in November, when he traveled to Japan as part of a MLB all-star team and homered three times in seven games.
”That experience, and just being able to play a little bit more baseball at the end of the year, and just have some good moments over there, kind of sweetened the bitter taste that I had at the end of the year,” Longoria said. ”It kind of made me more hungry to get back to work and get ready to come back and have a great year for us.”
Cash looks at the numbers Longoria posted last season and thinks it’s laughable anyone would suggest he’s needs to bounce back.
”It cracks me up when people say rebound. There’s 90 percent in baseball that would give a left arm to have those numbers,” the manager said. ”Evan, he makes us go. There’s no doubt about it. There’s no doubt he’s going to be good.”