The Rays Tank: Evan Longoria Wins AL POW, Provides Perspective on His Importance

USA TODAY Sports

How different the Rays lineup is when Evan Longoria's name is penciled in.

Evan Longoria's early start to the season is confirming what we already knew: when healthy, he is a very good player. Right now, though, he's playing better than ever.

Although admittedly it was a small sample size, Longoria hit to a .464/.531/.964 line (a pretty decent 261 OPS+) with 3 home runs, 5 doubles, and 11 RBI in 7 games and 32 plate appearances. He is seeing the ball extremely well and doing a great job putting the ball on the bat, striking out just 4 times while walking 4 times. For his efforts, Longoria has been named the American League Player of the Week. Longoria talked to Marc Topkin about what it's like for him at the plate right now.

"I am in one of those modes right now where it seems like no matter what they throw up there, I'm seeing every pitch pretty well. And even when I get to two strikes, I don't really feel like I'm too antsy or I'm going to swing at a bad pitch. I'm pretty patient and relaxed up there."

Longoria's heroics played a big role in the Rays going 5-2 in the past seven days, and his current play has reminded everyone around the Rays how crucial he is to the team's success.

"We were aware of it at the time, but when you see him carry us, like he has for the last couple of weeks, it’s an even bigger reminder of how important he is," Rays outfielder Sam Fuld said.

Can Longoria keep this up? Ian Malinowski posed that very question yesterday, commenting that Longoria almost definitely isn't quite this good but may be primed for a career year. Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune had this...interesting insight.

No one is expecting Longoria to hit .333, but he’s tracking toward 30 homers and 100 RBIs. And, for now, he’s getting some real protection. James Loney, hitting behind Longoria, is second in the AL at .376. It matters.

No one expecting Longoria to hit .333...but no mention as to the flukiness of Loney's performance? Loney is definitely bound to regress, but maybe his strong play is an indication of a breakthrough of some kind. Topkin talked about the mechanical change at the plate that may have keyed his success.

Technically, the difference is that he is ready to hit sooner, getting his front foot down quicker, allowing for better decision making and a split second of additional reaction time.

Longoria and Loney will not be this dynamic of a duo over the course of the season, but right now they are the cornerstones of a Rays offense playing as good as we've seen in the past few weeks. Even as their luck subsides, Longoria is a great player and even Loney may have made some serious progress, and the Rays can expect plenty of production from Longoria and strong play from Loney as well as the season continues.

Here are your links for today:

-The Rays have brought back Cory Wade, signing him to a minor league contract and assigning him to the Triple-A Durham Bulls. Quite a journey for Wade, going from the Bulls to pitching extremely effectively for the Yankees for a while but then collapsing and finding himself back at Durham.

-Mike Montgomery started a rehab assignment for a strained forearm at High-A Charlotte and pitched extremely well, going 4 innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. He combined with Parker Markel on a five-hit shutout as the Stone Crabs won 3-0. It's only a rehab appearance, but Montgomery has to start somewhere to rebuild his confidence and hopefully this start can be that.

-Matt Moore talked about how he got to be where he is in his MLB career now and credited the Rays' strategy for developing high school pitchers for keeping him relaxed and letting him take his time to develop into the best pitcher he can be.

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