Tampa Bay Rays
Rays notes: Longo flashes gold glove in opener
ST. PETERSBURG - It wasn’t just his bat that the Rays missed when 3B
Evan Longoria was out of the lineup for 85 games last season. The Rays missed Longoria’s glove, too, and they were reminded Tuesday just how it was that glove turned to gold.
Longoria turned in four web gems Tuesday during their 7-4 loss to the Orioles.
“Our defense was fantastic — Longo at third base, Sammy ( Fuld) in the outfield — that was fun to watch,’’ Manager Joe Maddon said. “We just played well all over the place defensively.’’
No one played better than Longoria, who dove to the ground to make stops on four hard-hit balls, including one by Adam Jones, who Longoria wound up throwing out in the fifth while seated on his rear end.
“That was kind of like a Ron Burgundy moment there where you kind of black out and don’t know what’s going on,’’ Longoria said of the throw he made from the seat of his pants. “It was an eventful day for me.’’
“Yeah, that was fun to watch,’’ Maddon said. “Longo throwing a guy out from his butt like that. That was entertaining. And how about Sam? He had a wonderful day, too.’’
Fuld raced in from deep right to catch a pop-up behind first base that both 2B Ben Zobrist and 1B James Loney were battling to get underneath and then dove to catch a sinking liner with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth.
Innings eater RHP Jeremy Hellickson’s first chance to eat up some of the innings the Rays lost when they traded James Shields comes today, and Hellickson believes he can achieve the objective if he can cut back on his walks.
“I had a few more walks last year than I wanted, and I did a better job the second half of cutting those down, and if I can continue to do that I think I can add a few more innings to the tab,’’ Hellickson said.
Hellickson walked 62 batters (three intentionally) in 177 innings last year, so getting out of at-bats a little quicker will be another key to any success he has finishing off some extra innings.
“For him to get deeper into the game he’s going to have to get more efficient outs,’’ Maddon said. “It’s a matter of being a little more aggressive and moving the ball on the edges a little better. That’s what will get him to the next level.’’
Ready, set, wait The neon yellow T-shirt with the phrase #crushtime written across it seemed appropriate for everyone in the Rays clubhouse Tuesday except the man who was wearing it.
Relegated to the 15-day disabled list by a sore calf, DH Luke Scott expressed some frustration over his inability to participate in the season opener but vowed to return to the lineup sooner rather than later.
“I’m a fast healer, so I’m encouraged that it’s only going to be a few weeks instead of five (before I can return),’’ Scott said. “I mean, this (stinks). It’s Opening Day and I’m ready to go.’’
Happy holidays Count Maddon among those who would like to see Opening Day become a national holiday.
“It really should become a national holiday at some point, and you would think that could be achieved,’’ Maddon said.
“The game is so ingrained in the fabric of our country. For (some) it’s almost a religious experience. It’s very special and I feel very fortunate to have this uniform on and get a chance to walk out there again.’’
Noteworthy The Rays and Orioles both wore a patch on their uniforms Tuesday honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. … After playing their first six games at home, the Rays play 20 of their next 26 on the road. … The Rays are 8-8 all time in season openers and home openers. … All seven runs allowed by the Rays came with two outs.